Arbiters of the Arts: Juniper Leherissey

Harwood Museum of Art

Outside the Museum (Daniel Pearson/Taos News)

Juniper Leherissey, who grew up in Taos and Peñasco, had no idea she’d end up staying when she landed back here in 2000 after 10 years away
(meeting someone messes up lots of plans), or that 19 years later she’d be running the Harwood — though, one could argue, if there were any job in  Taos she would have wanted, it was that one.

“My art education was mostly me going to Europe for six months and visiting virtually every museum in a number of countries,” she says, “that is my osmotic learning of art and art history.” She also learned she liked being in the museum environment, with the creativity of the exhibitions and the fascina-tion with objects and art, but “being in the gallery, organizing things, knowing the art history of everything wasn’t my propensity.”

Tina Larkin – Art for a Silent Planet: Blaustein, Elder and Long an exhibition of work by Jonathan Blaustein, Nina Elder and Debbie Long on view February 22 – May 4, 2014 at The Harwood Museum of Art. (Daniel Pearson/Taos News)

she has an analytical brain. Her skill set is administrative: fundraising, marketing and membership, with their data bases, spreadsheets and budgets. “Re-hanging the mu-seum sounds like a daunting proj-ect to me and you better not leave me in charge of it.” Leherissey’s first arts-related job to tap those skills was at Henry Art Gallery, a mid-sized museum on the University of Washington campus.

It was after a move to Barcelona didn’t pan out as planned that Leherissey found her-self back in Taos, where she worked in gal-leries until she decided that wasn’t a road she wanted to travel. Instead, she pursued a master’s degree in arts management at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. During the two-year program, she interned at the Carnegie Museum, raising funds for the 2004 Carnegie International, and was one of the founders of Future Tenant, a program to reinvigorate downtown areas by filling vacant buildings with art.

Juniper Leherissey, executive director at Harwood Museum of Art, as seen on Thursday (April 4). (Daniel Pearson/Taos News)

In her post-graduate career, she focused on fundraising because, “I knew that if a nonprofit is going to be successful that was a very critical piece of it. And once you’re in development there’s always a job.” She was development director for the 2006 Inter-national Folk Art Market in Santa Fe. Then she filled the same position at the Harwood, stepping into the role just as the 2008 recession hit and the museum realized it needed another $3.3 million on top of the $3 million it had received from the state to build its planned 11,000-square-foot addition.

Leherissey had stepped away for a couple of years to work at the Taos Land Trust, but when the Harwood’s directorship opened in 2019, she was a natural choice to take over — as a former museum employee, as a local who had witnessed the Harwood’s evolution over the decades, and as one who understood the complex forces at work in our county. Leherissey considers overseeing the Har-wood a privilege and enjoys the challenge of moving it forward, of not letting it become an ivory tower but a place that represents Taos in all its diversity. And she loves her hometown, “I could have gone elsewhere and wouldn’t have found as dynamic an artistic community or one as supportive of that creativity as I’ve found here.”

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