NEW YORK (AP) — Anne-Imelda Radice, who served as director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has been named the new director of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.
The museum's board of trustees made the announcement Wednesday. It had been operating without a permanent director since July 2011.
Radice, who takes the helm immediately, has more than 35 years' experience at public and private museums and cultural organizations, including as the first director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.
She said in an interview that one of her first priorities would be raise the museum's visibility.
"Many people have a general concept of what folk art might be but I think there's a real opportunity to tell the story even more so," Radice said.
The museum was founded in 1961. It houses traditional folk art dating to the 18th century, including 5,000 quilts, weather vanes, textiles, sculptures, paintings and decorative arts in a 6,000-square-foot space in Lincoln Square, across from Lincoln Center. It also has a large collection of works by self-taught artists.
Radice, 64, praised the museum staff, administration and board for making the museum solvent after decades of financial problems.
"In saving the collection and the educational programs and all the outreach ... that make up the museum, they really did a Herculean job," Radice said. "There is no debt. No debt is a beautiful thing."
The American Folk Art Museum had long been plagued with financial problems. The problems worsened in 2009, when the museum defaulted on a $32 million debt. It had borrowed the money for a new museum on the same block as the Museum of Modern Art.
To pay off the debt, it sold its 53rd Street building to MoMA, but continued operating at its smaller location at Lincoln Square, where it continues to operate.
In a discussion of its finances in January, the museum predicted a brighter future as it launched a search for a director.
In September 2011, it received a $2 million pledge from a longtime trustee and an additional $1 million commitment from other trustees and supporters. It also received $500,000 from the Ford Foundation.
Monty Blanchard Jr., president of the museum board of trustees, said the pledges and other funds put the institution in a financially solvent position.
Its current annual operating budget is $3.5 million.
Among her other credentials, Radice served as chief of staff to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education; curator and architectural historian for the Architect of the Capitol; and assistant curator of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Radice is the recipient of numerous awards. In 2008, President George W. Bush bestowed on her the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest honor conferred on a civilian.