MOCAD names British art museum leader as new executive director

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit has named Cara Courage, the former head of a London art space dedicated to public collaboration and experimentation through art, as its new executive director.

Courage's appointment was announced Tuesday after a lengthy search for a new director. The museum alsonamed MOCAD veteran Marie Madison-Patton, its director of business operations, as its new deputy director.

"Courage brings worldly leadership and expertise from the arts sector with a specialization in collaborative placemaking and activist arts, which she will use to center Detroit’s communities in developing MOCAD as a site for positive social, diverse and equitable change," said MOCAD in a press release.

Cara Courage, left, is MOCAD's new executive director and Marie Madison-Patton is its new deputy director.

Courage's appointment follows a lengthy search for a new director after previous Executive Director Elysia Borowy was fired in July of 2020 amid allegations from dozens of former staffers and interns of abusive treatment, racial harassment and creating a toxic workplace. She'd been with the museum since 2013. Bowery on Tuesday said a settlement agreement she signed with the museum states she was fired for no cause. 

Courage was the head of the Tate Exchange in London, a part of Tate Modern. Founded in 2016, Tate Exchange explores and debates contemporary ideas and topics through art. It describes itself as "the first of its kind in an art museum anywhere in the world," according to its website.

“I am honored to have been chosen for the role of Executive Director by the MOCAD team and Board,” said Courage in a statement. “I am a passionate advocate for the positive role art can play in society, and believe firmly in the potential of museums to offer a shared space for all to reflect upon their lived experience and work to create the world they want to live in. I am so incredibly excited to be working with them to make MOCAD the best that it can be for the communities of Detroit, for artists, the Museum’s partners and collaborators and for all who come to visit.”

Madison-Patton, the new deputy director, meanwhile, has spearheaded several major museum projects during her tenure, restructuring employee benefits for more comprehensive health care and managing the museum’s policy shifts during COVID-19. She also more than doubled MOCAD’s staff within 10 years, "bolstering numerous departments and growing the museum’s potential for community engagement," according to a press release.

"Having worked at MOCAD for over a decade, this museum feels like my second home — and I’m excited to work alongside Dr.Courage to envision our future,” said Madison-Patton. “We’ve made sure to include all of our stakeholders in the director search and  know Dr.Courage’s values align with our mission.