Strick, 53, started his job at the Nasher—whose endowment and annual budget are about $100 million and $9 million, respectively—in early March. He arrives in Dallas after nine years in Los Angeles as director of the prestigious Museum of Contemporary Art, which last year was thrown into a serious financial crisis.
1. Moving to Texas from California, have you experienced any culture shock yet?
So far, it looks like a pretty easy transition. I’ve come to Dallas since the mid-1980s, when I was curator at the National Gallery of Art and worked on a show including the Ray and Patsy Nasher collection in participation with the Dallas Museum of Art.
2. Why did you want to leave your job at MOCA, which is one of the most renowned art institutions in the country?
I was approaching my 10th anniversary there. While I love being a director, I also love working directly with art. As I was thinking about the next phase for me, [I realized I wanted to do] something that sort of rebalanced the art/curatorial side with the fundraising/administrative side.
3. Looking back, what is your take on MOCA’s financial difficulties?
The fundamental problem was that the institution never really had the necessary level of support. It was always under-endowed—at its absolute height it was about $38 million, against maybe a $15 million budget. It was just very difficult to sustain that. We were having to raise 70 to 80 percent of our operating budget, which is a steep hill to climb. Even though we didn’t have the foundation we needed in Los Angeles—the Nasher, by contrast, has a very stable foundation—we were still able over the years to mount one of the great programs, anyway.
4. Won’t you have to raise money here, too?
It’s always part of the job, but where contributing income at MOCA was up to 80 percent of the budget, here it’s been closer to 10 percent. So where that part of the job was all-consuming in Los Angeles, here it will be more a part of the mix.
5. What plans do you have for the Nasher?
One thing we’re going to start doing is acquiring art. We’re going to continue to build the collection, and that’s going to take some study. Another area is in our exhibitions; I’ve got a range of contacts and ideas, and we want to look at the program overall. What should our relationship to contemporary art be, what should our relationship be to living artists, what [artistic] media should we be working with? How do all the pieces fit together?
This museum is a jewel; people speak of the Nasher with a kind of reverence, because it’s such a beautiful and important collection and facility. We want to make sure it’s as known and admired not only in this community but around the country and around the world—as it should be—and that’s going to be part of my job.