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Governor appoints new director of the Utah Division of Arts & Museums – 13 Nov 2015

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary R. Herbert has appointed Gay Cookson as the director of the Utah Division of Arts & Museums, a division of the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts.

“Gay Cookson is a proven leader in Utah’s arts and museums communities,” Herbert said. “With 30 years of responsibility in arts and cultural administration, she brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to her new position. I trust that the nation’s oldest state arts agency will be in capable hands.”

Cookson currently serves as the senior director of development for the University of Utah College of Fine Arts, which includes the University’s four professional arts and cultural affiliates: Pioneer Theatre Company, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Tanner Dance Company and Kingsbury Hall (UtahPresents); and six academic departments including ballet, modern dance, theatre, music, art and art history, and film and media arts. At the College of Fine Arts, she worked to support and expand the influence of arts and creativity on campus and throughout the community. She has also held several positions at KUED Channel-7 and served in the Ballet West administration.

Cookson earned a Master of Fine Arts in Arts Administration and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Utah.

“I’m delighted to join the Division of Arts & Museums as director,” Cookson said. “I look forward to working with the talented professional staff at the Division and to continuing Utah’s proud tradition of state support for arts and museums.”

“Gay is a great addition to our Utah Department of Heritage and Arts team,” said executive director, Julie Fisher. “Her years of experience with arts and culture at the University of Utah and in the broader community will enhance the mission of the Division of Arts and Museums.”

Gov. Herbert convened a search panel of leaders in Utah’s arts and museums communities to conduct a nationwide search for a new director. The panel was chaired by Vern Swanson, emeritus director of the Springville Museum of Art and included: Max Chang, business leader and arts and museums advocate; Ken Verdoia, journalist and producer at KUED and chair of the Utah Arts Council Board of Directors; Dr. Pam Miller, retired professor of museum studies at USU-Eastern and chair of the Utah Offices of Museum Services Advisory Board; Kirsten Darrington, assistant director of the Utah Division of Arts & Museums; Julie Fisher, executive director of the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts; and Brian Somers, deputy director of the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts.

“Our search panel reviewed a large number of qualified applicants from across Utah and the nation,” Vern Swanson said. “After a thorough and grueling interview process, Gay rose to the top of our list and was the unanimous choice of the committee to lead the Division of Arts & Museums in its bright future.”