After an extensive national search, the Honolulu Museum of Art has a new leader. Halona Norton-Westbrook, Ph.D., will start her position as the museum’s 11th director on Jan. 6.

She comes to the museum from the Toledo Museum of Art, where she is their Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art until Dec. 5. While there, she has successfully implemented new and innovative approaches to exhibitions, operations and fundraising that have both diversified Toledo’s collection and expanded audiences at the institution’s 40-acre campus which serves over 400,000 visitors a year.

She has had a meteoric rise at the Toledo Museum of Art, where she began her career as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in 2013, then became head of visitor engagement in 2015. The following year, she was appointed director of collections and started her current role in January 2018.

Norton-Westbrook is the third person to have received the prestigious Toledo Museum of Art Andrew W. Mellon Leadership Fellowship, inaugurated in 2012 to train the next generation of art leaders in museum management and development. As a Mellon Fellow housed within the Toledo Museum’s Office of the Director, Norton-Westbrook successfully completed a full scope of curatorial and managerial projects designed to train and prepare her specifically to manage and lead all aspects of a museum.

A graduate of Mills College in California with a double major in American History and Studio Art, Norton-Westbrook received her master’s degree in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She received her Ph.D. in Museology (the study of museum leadership) and Art History from the University of Manchester, and graduated from Claremont’s Getty Leadership Institute, an executive program for future museum leaders dedicated to focusing their careers on museum management.

“We are thrilled and fortunate that Halona will be joining HoMA during such an exciting and transitional time,” said Board Chair Kitty Wo. “From the beginning of her education and throughout her career, she has been focused on gaining the skills and knowledge to create a significant and meaningful impact in the world of art.”

Trustee Herb Conley, who headed HoMA’s search committee, said, “Here is an individual who has seemingly dedicated her entire adult life to preparing for this moment with us here at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Her passion for looking into the future to ‘what’s next’ and generating community support through relevance and inclusion is something that every museum looks for in a dynamic and innovative leader.”

Norton-Westbrook, who grew up in the Bay Area and visited Hawai‘i frequently with her parents as a child, is “honored to be joining the HoMA team and am delighted to become a part of Hawai‘i’s vibrant art community,” she said. “HoMA has done an incredible job in advancing the role that art plays in the state, pushing important conversations and defining the future of what museums should look like. I look forward to joining my new colleagues, continuing their great work and meeting the many wonderful artists, leaders and diverse communities that define Hawai‘i.” She arrives in Honolulu with her husband and daughter.

She isn’t the first woman to lead HoMA. She follows in the footsteps of Catharine E.B. Cox, the museum’s second director who helped Anna Rice Cooke catalog her collection, and Anna C. Jenks, the museum’s third director. Join us in welcoming Halona to HoMA.