Birmingham Museum of Art director receives lifetime achievement award

Congratulations are in order to one of Birmingham’s brightest stars in the arts. Gail Andrews recently received the Jonnie Dee Riley Little Lifetime Achievement Award at its biennial celebration in Montgomery.

Birmingham museum of art director receives award
Birmingham Museum of Art Director Gail Andews, via

A True Advocate

Appointed in 1996, Andrews has served as Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art for the past two decades. Through her work and advocacy she’s established the museum as the largest municipal museum in the Southeast, as well as increasing the size of the museum by 50% and navigating a $21 million expansion and renovation throughout her career.

 “… Under her leadership the Museum has burgeoned,” wrote Dr. Graham Boettcher, in ‘Alabama Arts’ magazine. “The collection has grown from 13,000 to 27,000 works of art; programming has been greatly expanded; five key positions have been endowed; and $20 million has been added to the endowment—all while maintaining free general admission. Few individuals have made so great and transformative an impact on a single institution.”

Community Impact

Boettcher also noted Andrews’ ability to form lasting and meaningful relationships with staff, patrons and members of the community as a key component to her success in promoting the arts in Alabama, along with her relationships on a national level.

“I have such regard and affection for so many of my colleagues,” Andrews told Alabama Arts magazine. “They have been available for advice and counsel, for ideas and partnerships, and have truly been a significant part of my life.”

Particularly, her participation in the Association of Art Museum Directors has been a cornerstone of her professional experience. Andrews was elected president of the AAMD in 2007 and addressed multiple  issues during her one-year term, from national legislation affecting the arts to museums’ responsibilities for protecting and interpreting ancient artifacts.

In March, Andrews announced that she would retire from BMA in the fall of 2017. She will continue to be involved with the BMA, co-curating an exhibition of Dr. Cargo’s folk art collection and writing about the Museum’s quilt collection.

Vodoun Flag at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Robert Cargo Folk Art Collection
Vodoun Flag or Banner (Guede), Haiti, about 1990, satin, sequins, and glass beads Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Robert Cargo Folk Art Collection; Gift of Caroline Cargo, via BMA

Of  her legacy, Andrews says that she wants to be remembered for creating inclusion and diversity.

“I take a great deal of pride in fostering collecting more works by African American artists, and also by artists who are depicting and reflecting on the Civil Rights Movement,” Andrews said.

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