Promotions at the Akron Art Museum

For Release: October 14, 2019

Akron—The Akron Art Museum is pleased to announce the promotion of three staff members as part of its strategic realignment to enrich the level of experiences that the museum can bring to the community. Key to the realignment is the promotion of Seema Rao to the role of deputy director and chief experience officer. Since her arrival in May 2019, Rao has created ongoing plans for enhancing the museum experience, and she has identified new ways to employ technology to engage visitors. In her increased capacity, she will be responsible for envisioning the curatorial, educational, library and archival, marketing and community engagement direction of the museum as a comprehensive whole. The restructuring will allow the museum to more effectively embed human-centered design and experience into all areas of its work.

John S. Knight Director and CEO Mark Masuoka said, “In working with Seema, we quickly found we had the opportunity to step back and visualize a path for the museum as a 21st century institution. We are planning the integration our brand, our approach to engaging members of our community with contemporary art in meaningful, relevant ways, and our way of sharing the excellent scholarship of our staff members with the world. Not only do we have the vision for this holistic approach that is focused on the visitor’s experience, we have the expertise and the will to actually achieve it.”

Key to the strategic realignment are the promotions of two members of the museum’s curatorial staff. Theresa Bembnister, who joined the museum as associate curator in January 2015, has been named the museum’s curator of exhibitions. Annie Wischmeyer, who joined the museum as assistant curator in August 2018, will take on the role of curator of collections.

Bembnister will guide the museum’s curatorial vision and mission to bring the best contemporary art to Akron. During her tenure at the Akron Art Museum, she has curated numerous exhibitions, including Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art, an immersive new exhibition that features artists whose work has been influenced by video games. Open World launches on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Bembnister earned an MA in art history and museum studies from Case Western Reserve University and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. She worked as an associate curator at Kansas State University’s Beach Museum of Art in Manhattan, Kansas.

As curator of collections, Wischmeyer will help the museum activate its world-class permanent collection through a renewed look at interpretation and engagement. Since joining the Akron Art Museum, Wischmeyer has provided crucial support for several exhibitions and scholarly projects. She is the curator of The Distance of the Moon, which opens on Saturday, November 9, 2019. Wischmeyer earned an MA in art history from Hunter College, where she also worked as assistant curator.

Rao is a noted speaker on all areas of museum transformation, having served as the featured speaker for MuseumNext, Pennsylvania Museums Association and Western Museum Association. She writes extensively about museums including recently becoming the featured writer in the Museum 2.0 blog, and authoring two books: Objective Lessons: Self-Care for Museum Professionals and Change at Work: Not Just Surviving but Thriving. Rao earned a Master of Arts degree in Art History from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a Master’s degree in Information Science and User Experience Design. She has worked with a broad range of institutions including, Rowan University, the Science Museum in Bihar, the Massillon Museum of Art, the Asia Society Texas Center, the American Alliance of Museums. Rao sits on the board of Ohio Museums Association and is a Trustee at Large for Museum Hue.