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MOCA Gets A New Director

Former Locust Projects Leader Wants To Bridge Gaps


Monica Torres

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The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in North Miami has a new executive director, Chana Budgazad Sheldon. Sheldon, whose first day was Jan. 17, is known in the art community and highly respected for her many years of working with local non-profit contemporary art organizations.

She was formerly the executive director at Locust Projects, a non-profit experimental art space in the Design District, for eight years. She led the organization with great fundraising bashes like the popular annual auction, Spring Fling, which featured a selection of local artists, from fine to graffiti. I asked Sheldon about what led her to want to lead a larger museum like MOCA.

“Museum of Contemporary Art MOCA has a long and rich history in Miami. It’s such a honor to be a part of that and with two decades of experience in Contemporary Art, I hope to continue the legacy of the institution.”

MOCA’s mission is to make contemporary art accessible to diverse audiences, and the new executive director is most looking forward to connecting the art to the people in the area.

She says she believes that “MOCA is a center for connecting art to the community through public programs. Education programs that have come out of MOCA have been incredible and impactful, and I plan to reinstate some of those programs."

She is no stranger to working with the community. Aside from all of the community outreach programming she implemented at Locusts Projects, MOCA’s new executive director also recently served as the Miami director and national program advisor for Project Art, a nonprofit organization that provides free after-school art classes to underserved youth in public libraries through an artist residency program.

Sheldon started her career at Casey Kaplan, a contemporary art gallery in New York City, where she worked for seven years, ultimately becoming its director.A Miami Beach resident, Sheldon has served four years on the city's Art in Public Places Committee. The committee, appointed by the city commission, is responsible for commissioning new public artworks by contemporary artists in all media.

I asked Sheldon about how she felt adjusting to a move from the Design District to North Miami. “MOCA is in the heart in North Miami. There are many residents within walking distance. MOCA’s history has always been connecting artists with the community in a meaningful way. This really is a beautiful platform to grow that and build on the museum’s long international history."

As for future plans, Sheldon mentioned it was a bit too soon to discuss public programs that are in the works, since she's only a month into her new appointment. But she did clue me in about some of the upcoming exhibitions, and said: “MOCA is the home to many provocative exhibitions. They bring a fresh approach to examine the art of our time.” An exhibition opening next month features South African artist Lionel Smith for his United States debut. Titled Obscura, the exhibit will run until May. Later in September, Myra Lehr, a local eco-feminist artist, will be showcasing her mixed-media creations, which will bring attention to the environment, a major issue in South Florida. 

The Museum of Contemporary Art began as the Center for Contemporary art in a single gallery space in 1981. In 1996, the museum opened a new building, following the establishment of its permanent collection in 1995.

The appointment of Sheldon brings new life into MOCA after some upheaval that began in 2012. A battle between the City of North Miami and its board of trustees led to members of the board leaving, and eventually opening a new contemporary museum with the help of private funding. The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Miami in Miami's Design District opened last year just before Art Basel.

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The Museum is located at 770 NE 125th Street, North Miami, FL 33161. It is open Tuesday–Friday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturday 1–9 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m. (closed Mondays and major holidays). Admission to the museum is $5, and is free to MOCA members and North Miami residents. For more information, visit mocanomi.org, call 305-893-6211 or email info@mocanomi.org.  

DURING JAZZ AT MOCA

On the last Friday of every month, the museum is open by donation during Jazz at MOCA from 7 to 9 p.m.

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