The American LGBTQ+ Museum announced on Tuesday it had selected the organization’s first executive director, Ben Garcia. The news comes almost five years from the day the museum was first planned.
Garcia has been in the museum industry for more than 20 years. He’s led similar institutions and has advocated for LGBTQ+ rights, according to a press release. He will lead the institution’s exhibition development, advocacy efforts, communications and community outreach implementation, and fundraising strategy.
The American LGBTQ+ Museum will be the first museum dedicated to queer history and culture in the city.
“After five years of working to get to this point, after our groundbreaking with the New York Historical Society last fall, the board is delighted to welcome Ben Garcia as our first executive director,” said Richard Burns, chair of the American LGBTQ+ Museum board of directors and interim executive director of the Johnson Family Foundation. “Ben brings the experience, knowledge, and vision we need to lead our museum to our opening in 2024 and beyond. We’re all excited to begin working closely with him come February!”
Garcia most recently served as the deputy executive director and chief learning officer at the Ohio History Connection. There, he managed initiatives that centered on Ohio’s untold histories and managed the repatriation of Indigenous belongings. Garcia also oversaw an increase in the environmental and economic sustainability of the organization’s 58 museums and historic sites. His previous museum experience also includes leading the education departments of the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Skirball Cultural Center, as well as administrative roles at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Us. Garcia also serves on the board of directors for Equality Ohio and the Association of Midwest Museums.
“To lead the American LGBTQ+ Museum into this next phase is a dream realized,” Garcia said. “Together, we will tell the stories of queer peoples in this country from its Indigenous beginnings to the present; thousands of stories that haven’t been told before in museums. Stories brought to life through the work of LGBTQ+ creatives and scholars. This museum will be a space of celebration, connection, activism, and deep meaning. A liminal space where the connection to our ancestors will be strong and queer magic, real.”
Museum board member and CEO of Translash Imara Jones said that Garcia, who The New York Times reports identifies as Latine, understands the importance of highlighting the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community.
“A key goal of this museum is to right many of the historic wrongs committed through the deliberate erasure of the gender and racial diversity of our community for political expediency,” Jones said. “Ben understands that it is essential to center those left and left behind, in order for LGBTQ+ people to have a just future that endures and works for all. This understanding is one that he gets profoundly and clearly. It is why our museum will be unique in important ways as a result. It's exciting quite frankly.”
Garcia takes up the role of executive director on March 14. He and his husband will move to New York City in the spring.