Sandra Barghini ’74 was recently named executive director at the Armory Art Center, West Palm Beach, Fla. She will take the post on Aug. 1. In an article in the Palm Beach Daily News, Armory board members praised Barghini’s accomplished history as a museum professional.
“Armory board president James Swope praised Barghini’s fundraising record, her board management skills and her administrative capabilities,” states the article. It quotes Swope, “Look at her resume. Everything she’s done has been a turn-around position.”
Barghini graduated from William Smith College with a B.A. in anthropology and English. She went on to earn an M. A. in anthropology from the University of Arizona.
The full article about her appointment and her career follows.
Palm Beach Daily News
Former Palm Beach curator set to take over Armory Art Center
Jan Sjostrom • Arts Editor • May 13, 2009
Sandra Barghini doesn’t back down from a challenge. She’s surmounted quite a few during her 32 years as a museum professional.
Now she’s about to take on another one: the executive director’s post at the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, where she will begin work Aug. 1.
This isn’t the first high-profile job she’s had in the local arts community. Barghini, 57, was chief curator of the Flagler Museum from 1995 to 2003. At the time, she was married to Flagler Director John Blades. The couple have since divorced.
After leaving the Flagler, Barghini served briefly as acting curator of American art and associate curator at the Norton Museum before becoming executive director of the American Museum in Britain in Bath.
Four executive directors have come and gone at the Armory since 2001. The 23-year-old community visual arts school in West Palm Beach struggles to make ends meet, and its most recent director, Jesus De Las Salas, said he resigned because the Armory couldn’t afford his salary in the declining economy.
Armory leaders disagree.
“We can afford an executive director,” said Herman Porten, the Palm Beach board member who has managed the Armory with board member Nancy Lambrecht since De Las Salas resigned in November.
Porten said the Armory hasn’t done a good job of hiring the kind of administrator it needs.
“We have 3,000 students, 60 to 65 art faculty, plus office staff,” he said. “It’s a good-sized operation. It takes a very take-charge person to keep it all in order and make it grow.”
Armory board president James Swope praised Barghini’s fundraising record, her board management skills and her administrative capabilities.
“She had so many of the qualities we needed plus one we hadn’t even ranked – familiarity with Palm Beach,” Swope said.
‘Eager to return’
Barghini said she’s eager to return to her friends in Palm Beach County.
As for the Armory, “It’s an institution that’s worth putting some time into,” she said. “It counts in the community. I also liked the idea of doing something different from 32 years of historic museums.”
Like the Armory, the institutions for which Barghini has worked needed a boost.
Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., had never employed a museum professional when it hired Barghini as chief curator in 1984. During her 10 years there, Barghini established an industry-standard curatorial department.
Her tasks at the Flagler included steering a $5 million restoration of the mansion’s interior that was completed in 18 months. Again, she developed a professional curatorial department.
The American Museum in Britain is the only American decorative arts museum outside of the United States. Established in 1961, the private museum is housed in an 1820 Georgian manor surrounded by 125 acres of grounds.
Barghini “transformed it,” said Elsa Joyce, former visitors services manager for The National Trust in Bath. “She blew the cobwebs off. There’s a buzz about it now.”
The American Museum fund-raises one-third to one-half of its nearly $2 million operating budget. About 95 percent of donations come from Americans, Barghini said.
The Armory’s 2008-09 operating budget is $1.9 million, slashed in mid-year from $2.1 million. It raises about 55 percent of the budget from donations.
At the American Museum, Barghini spearheaded a drive to revamp its American history and culture exhibit. About half the money for the nearly $2 million upgrade came from a Heritage Lottery Fund grant from the British government and the rest from donations.
She also oversaw the doubling of the museum’s food-service facility. Plans are under way to retool outbuildings to become an education center.
In recent years, the Armory has expanded and upgraded its facilities, but its finances have not kept pace. Enrollment held steady this year, but donations declined by 17 percent.
Armory leaders hope this time they’ve chosen a leader who can break the school’s cycle of living hand-to-mouth.
“Look at her resume,” Swope said. “Everything she’s done has been a turn-around position.”