Sonoma art museum director leaving to work as teacher, curator, consultant

Kate Eilertsen will leave the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, where she has served as executive director for the past six years, to start her own consulting firm.

The museum had previously announced in March that Eilertsen would become its artistic director, but announced Thursday (July 30) that she had decided instead to teach curatorial practices at Sonoma State University, and work as a museum consultant and freelance curator for projects including future exhibits at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.

“I’m looking forward to a continued relationship with this gem of a museum, and to building a consulting firm that brings great art to Sonoma County,” Eilertsen said Friday.

She will stay with the downtown Sonoma museum during its current national search for a new executive director, until her replacement is recruited.

During her tenure at the museum, Eilertsen has presented exhibits by internationally known artists, including multi-media artist William T. Wiley and poet and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

This past winter, Eilertsen curated the first retrospective exhibit of work by Eleanor Coppola, artist, filmmaker and wife of film director and winery owner Francis Ford Coppola, which closed in January at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.

Since coming to the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art in 2009, Eilertsen has emphasized efforts to make the museum accessible to a broad audience and keep it active in the community.

She partnered with the Sonoma Community Foundation to develop “Discovered,” a biannual exhibition program featuring upcoming Sonoma County artists. Patron and corporate funding for the museum has grown substantially during her time there, a museum spokesman said.

“Kate’s warmth and exuberance has been instrumental to the success and growth of the museum over the last six years,” museum board vice-president Yvonne Hall said in a statement released Thursday by the museum.

Eilertsen, 60, began her career at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, where she oversaw the installation of the Rockefeller collection.

She went on to become exhibitions director for all three Harvard University Art Museums.

After moving to California, she founded Teen Inspiration, which provided visual arts and music programs for teen-agers in San Rafael.

Eilertsen gathered extensive experience in the Bay Area, working as associate dean and director for community education at the San Francisco Art Institute, special projects manager for the University of California at Berkeley Museum at Blackhawk, director of the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco and acting director of visual arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Located at 551 Broadway, not far from Sonoma Plaza, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art opened in 1998. For more information: 939-7862 or

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or On Twitter @danarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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