The Art Center of Waco will head into the work of relocating to its downtown property with a new director, Claire Sexton, who starts Aug. 1.
Sexton, the center’s present program coordinator, will replace Meg Gilbert, who is leaving the position she has held for the last two years to start in a graduate program in Museum Studies at Baylor University this fall.
Art Center of Waco board President Jill Michaels said Gilbert had told her several months ago of her intent to pursue a graduate degree.
“We sat down one day and worked things out,” Michaels said. “It wasn’t a surprise at all.”
The board approved the transition to Sexton as director, effective Aug. 1. The move also will see education coordinator Karen Alleman expanding her hours and job duties.
Sexton, 38, has worked for a little more than a year as the center’s programming coordinator, coming to the position after working for Cultural Arts of Waco and Studio Gallery.
Hailing from Texas, she and her husband Jonah Herbert, son of former Waco city council member Toni Herbert, had lived in New York City for about 10 years. She earned a master’s degree in visual arts administration from New York University and worked for a nonprofit arts exhibition space during that time. Having a son, Charles, and general work fatigue led the couple to decide in 2015 to relocate to Texas where both their families lived, she said.
“We figured we’d land in Waco and look for work in a larger city,” she said.
Waco, however, grew on them, and what started as a temporary stay grew more permanent.
Sexton worked as program coordinator during a pivotal year for the Art Center of Waco, when building problems forced the center to leave its location at McLennan Community College in the fall and search for a new home.
That journey took a major step forward in April when the center bought a former day care center on South Eighth Street in downtown Waco. The building’s renovation and the fundraising to accomplish that will dominate the months ahead, but Sexton already is thinking about what will go inside the new center.
“For now, we’re thinking about plans for the building and … a show stopper exhibition in the fall of 2019,” Sexton said. “One of my hopes of the new building is to bring in more established exhibitions and working curatorially toward these and group shows.”
It’s a slight change from her work with a New York nonprofit gallery, which often commissioned new work created in the space.
Outgoing director Meg Gilbert, 26, has undergraduate degrees in anthropology and studio art and said the graduate degree will allow her to continue her passion for arts education.
Gilbert said she will still work part-time at the center, in the time between studies and an assistantship, and is confident the staff will continue to keep the center on track.
“It’s been an adventure at the Art Center and it’s time for a good transition,” she said. “I’m so glad Claire is taking over. She has the tools for the job.”
Michaels was satisfied, too.
“Meg is going to her happy place,” she said. “We have someone in place we know can do the job, and Claire is so excited to be in that role.”