James Pepper Henry, director and chief executive of the Anchorage Museum for the past six years, will leave Alaska for a position at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Ariz.
Susan Knowles, the board chair of the Anchorage Museum Association, which manages the museum, said he informed her of his decision to leave on Friday. His last day will be July 5.
Pepper Henry's new job will be executive director and CEO of the Heard Museum. Debra Krol, senior communications manager for the Heard, said the post has been open since the previous director left last August. She said Pepper Henry will start work there on Aug. 5.
Krol described the Phoenix museum as dedicated to the art and culture of Native Americans with a focus on the Southwest.
Before coming to Anchorage, Pepper Henry, a member of the Kaw tribe of Oklahoma, held management positions at several other institutions dedicated to Native American culture, including the Institute of Alaska Native Arts in Fairbanks and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.
Pepper Henry took the reins at the Anchorage Museum, which is owned by the Municipality of Anchorage, in 2007 as the facility was undergoing a major $110 million expansion. The Imaginarium Discovery Center moved into the museum and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center exhibition of Alaska Native items opened as part of the expansion.
Pepper Henry told the Daily News that he had several projects facing him before he leaves. But he was particularly excited about a plan to "re-envision" the 15,000-square-foot Alaska Gallery. "I'd like to get that started before I leave," he said.
Knowles said the process of finding a replacement for Pepper Henry is already under way.
"The optimum timeline would be to have a successor by the time Jim leaves," she said. "We'll move as quickly as we can, but it's an extremely important decision."
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