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Reece Hardy, Saralyn

Reece Hardy
Year Inducted: 
  • Marilyn Stokstad Director, Spencer Museum of Art
  • Founding director of the Salina Art Center
  • Head of the Museums and Visual Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

One has to only look to the tremendous growth, expansion and development of the University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art to fully grasp the scope of Saralyn Reece Hardy’s visionary leadership and influence as an art museum director.  Invested in 2015 as the first Marilyn Stokstad Director of the Spencer Museum of Art, Hardy has led the only comprehensive art museum in Kansas since 2005. 

Hardy, a Kansas native from a family of accomplished women, attended the University of Kansas, receiving a bachelor of general studies and a master of arts in American Studies, American Art.  She began her career in Salina, serving as director of the Salina Art Center.  Her work developing strategic partnerships, bringing in innovative exhibits and growing the budget captured the attention of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), resulting in her appointment as director of Museums and Visual Arts.  In this role, she served as the NEA’s nationally-recognized expert and authority providing leadership, advice, and guidance on the development of policy and strategic directions, which was accomplished in large part due to the collaborations and partnerships she formed. 

In her current role at the Spencer, she has continued her focus on innovation and collaboration, involving the community to expand the scope and relevance of the Museum.  She led a major renovation that was completed this last October, 2016, which could not have been accomplished without creative vision, fundraising and partnerships.  She has commissioned new works of art to bring in new voices, established an international Artist-In Residence Program and took the lead to work in partnership to establish an interdisciplinary venture, the Commons, described as “a catalyst for unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, and unexpected discoveries across the sciences, arts, and humanities.” 

Hardy is described as a role model for all who work for and with her. A former employee said, “Though leadership positions in museums are often filled by men from metropolitan areas, Saralyn has offered a different and more relatable model of leadership… She makes a point of supporting young women, setting up coffee meetings with beginning arts professionals with bright ideas and offering mentorship to graduate students.”  A former graduate intern shared an anecdote about Saralyn asking a security guard in the museum his thoughts about art, leading the former intern to say, “I saw a model of leadership that was new to me – one that values the insights of everyone who serves the institution.”

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