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Wright Museum's Juanita Moore to retire

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

Juanita Moore, the longstanding president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, will retire July 1.

In her 12 years, the 66-year-old has overseen a period of relative stability for a museum that suffered a near-death financial crisis two years before her arrival in 2006. 

Under her tenure, the Wright dramatically expanded its community programs, boosted donors, weathered the 2008 economic collapse and implemented strategies for long-term financial health.

"When I think about the museum," Moore told The Detroit News in 2015 on the Wright's 50th anniversary, "I think about making it sustainable so it’s around for the next 50 years. That’s my goal."

Last year, the museum ran a surplus of  $153,311 on an operating budget of $6.5 million. 

When Moore arrived in 2006, the museum had about 100,000 visitors. Last year, that hit 338,000.

Moore could not be reached Wednesday for comment, but members of the cultural community were eager to praise her.

"Juanita has done wonderful job leading the institution," said Devon Akmon, who stepped down as director of Dearborn's Arab American National Museum last month. 

"She was at the helm during quite a bit of change," he added,  "and navigated the museum through the Great Recession to where it is today."

At the Detroit Institute of Arts, Nettie Seabrooks called Moore "a real professional who ushered in a period of wonderful exhibitions."

Chief among attention-getting shows was 2017's "Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion," the Wright's look at the 1967 uprising. 

Seabrooks also pointed to the recently announced $1 million donation the Wright got from auto executive William "Doc" Pickard, founder and chairman of the Global Automotive Alliance. 

"It’s a wonderful way for Juanita to leave -- after getting this $1 million gift," said Seabrooks, executive advisor to the DIA board Chairman Eugene A. Gargaro Jr.

"So she’s leaving on a high note." 

Moore came to the Wright in 2006 from the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, where she'd been executive director.

Previously, she was the founding director of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which opened at the Lorraine Motel in 1991.