Cleveland's Museum Center searching for new director

Cleveland's Museum Center searching for new director

March 4th, 2016 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Hassan Najjar, who has served as the executive director of Cleveland's Museum Center at Five Points for three years, has announced plans to resign on March 4. Museum board president Mike Griffin has credited Najjar's leadership as instrumental in transforming the facility into "a true community asset." In April, Najjar will begin work as executive director of Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colo.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Museum Center at Five Points will lose Hassan Najjar as its executive director today after a three-year tenure that has been credited with revitalizing the museum's mission and lifeblood.

Najjar will begin serving as executive director of Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colo., in April. He was the assistant curator of education at the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga from July 2006 to February 2013.

Museum board president Mike Griffin praised Najjar for his leadership and dedication.

"Hassan's leadership and vision reshaped the Museum Center into a true community asset," Griffin said in a news release. "He's the type of guy that rolls up his sleeves and gets the job done and that's the example he set for his staff and for this board."

Najjar took the museum's reins at a challenging time when the institution struggled to meet its mission and firmly establish itself as a destination for the region's history, arts and culture, Griffin said.

Focusing on the museum's mission of telling the story of the Ocoee Region was an essential concern that was addressed from the very beginning of his relationship with the board of trustees, Najjar said during a recent facility tour.

Griffin cited the creation of three new exhibit spaces, a new slate of mission-focused programming, receipt of Smithsonian accreditation and recent makeovers for the museum lobby and store as notable accomplishments achieved under Najjar's direction.

Less obvious to the public were Najjar's behind-the-scenes efforts to lower operating expenses and increase revenues, which have dramatically improved the museum's stability, Griffin said.

All of that translated into recognition from the community and buy-in from donors and other supporters, he said.

"Once we started to show the community the museum's full potential as a cultural leader, our donors took notice and invested in the great things we were doing," Griffin said.

The museum has hosted a number of traveling exhibits, including "Made in Tennessee: Manufacturing Milestones," "IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives," and "Khirbet el-Maqatir: History of a Biblical Site."

Najjar said he wants the museum to maintain the kind of momentum that resulted in a tripling of its school attendance last year and continues to attract visitors from all 50 states.

He urged the community to continue its support for the museum.

"There is still much to be done to repair our aging building, care for the collection, and to attract top-notch exhibits," Najjar said.

Job and application requirements for the Museum Center at Five Points executive director position are available online at museumcenter.org.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.