Carnegie Arts Center Executive Director and Curator Rebecca Phillips Abbott is stepping down from the center she helped to relaunch as a magnet for exhibits and programming.
Abbott is leaving to “have time for added family obligations,” effective Friday. Assistant Director Lisa McDermott will assume the duties of director on an interim basis.
“It became clear to me with family health issues that I needed more time away,” Abbott said. “I have been very lucky to have had a number of exciting positions in my career. The Carnegie is one of the most exciting.”
Abbott has led the arts center since 2009, when she was named executive director of the project as it was still in its redevelopment stage. In September 2011, the Carnegie reopened as a state-of-the-art regional arts center with gallery, performance and classroom space.
During her tenure, the center has held exhibits by iconic artists including Ansel Adams, Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso. In its first 15 months, the museum and facility saw 15,000 visitors, 3,300 class participants and more than $2 million in endowments. The Picasso ceramics exhibit, which closed last month, brought in more than 5,000 visitors.
Abbott came to the Carnegie after working as the director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and at the John Paul II Cultural Center, both in Washington, D.C. In 2006, Abbott moved to California with her husband. Both began working at California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock, where she held a position as the interim vice president for university advancement.
She plans to remain in the area and will serve as a guest curator for select exhibitions. In a statement about the resignation, Carnegie board President Jeani Ferrari thanked Abbott for her service.
“Rebecca Phillips Abbott has established the Carnegie Arts Center as a destination for residents from the Central Valley region and beyond,” she said. “Her efforts have positioned us well to continue offering exciting opportunities for engagement with the arts. Rebecca has brought a level of professionalism that was recognized and appreciated by thousands of gallery visitors; she has an amazing talent.”