Debbie Sokolov Will Serve as Interim Executive Director
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (April 13, 2023) – The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art Board of Directors announced today Robin Nicholson as the organization’s new Executive Director. An accomplished Cambridge art historian and innovative ‘outside the box’ museum leader, Nicholson joins The James Museum, having led three American art museums in Deputy Director and Executive Director/CEO roles since 2006 and most recently as the co-founder of the startup Art Museum Strategies. Director of Development Debbie Sokolov will serve as the museum’s Interim Executive Director. Nicholson will start in his position on June 1, 2023.
Nicholson brings extensive insight into leading a non-profit art institution and wide-ranging knowledge from working in the for-profit and gallery worlds. An imaginative strategic thinker, he has been at the forefront of re-envisioning the art museum model by maximizing exhibition planning, fundraising opportunities and public engagement initiatives for near and long-term ambitions. Nicholson is committed to the future of art museums and cultural organizations as diverse, equitable and inclusive institutions that reflect the communities they serve. He is committed to examining issues of cultural appropriation, and the interaction of Western and Indigenous artistic visions in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and how The James Museum can serve as a platform to ensure Indigenous voices are heard and their stories are told.
“I am thrilled to join one of the most innovative museums on the East Coast, if not across North America. Tom and Mary James’ passion for western & wildlife art and their investment in a world-class collection, and a museum that acts as a remarkable and innovative architectural beacon for the city, demonstrates how St. Pete continues to become a cultural hub for Florida,” said Robin Nicholson, The James Museum Executive Director. “I look forward to continuing the legacy of Executive Director Laura Hine and her talented staff, the devoted board of trustees, our donors and supporters, and above all, Tom and Mary James and their family to ensure that The James Museum flourishes, grows and expands the horizons of its unique collections.”
Since 2020, as Principal of Art Museum Strategies, Nicholson has worked with museums as diverse as the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Princeton University Art Museum. Previously Nicholson was the Executive Director/CEO of the Telfair Museums, Savannah, (2019-2020) and Executive Director of the Frick Pittsburgh (2014-2019), where he oversaw a six-acre museum that includes one of the best-preserved Gilded Age mansions in America, historic gardens and an art museum, founded by Helen Clay Frick, with exceptional examples of Renaissance to 19th-century European paintings and decorative arts. From 2006-2014 Nicholson was Deputy Director for Art and Education and Head of Exhibitions at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where he oversaw many major exhibition projects, from multiple cultures, including the seven-year collaboration with the Palace Museum, Beijing, that culminated in October 2014 with the exhibition Forbidden City: Imperial Treasures from the Palace Museum, Beijing, the ground-breaking exhibition of Ife sculptures from Nigeria in 2011, and the 2011 exhibition Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée Picasso in Paris, the most expensive and ambitious exhibition in VMFA’s history, that broke attendance records with over 236,000 visitors. He has worked with museums nationally and internationally, including Great Britain, Russia, China, Canada, France, Norway, and Italy.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Robin as the new Executive Director of The James Museum,” said Museum Founder and Chairman, Tom James. “His level of expertise and working knowledge of modern museums is unparalleled. I am confident that his vision and passion for reimagining the museum experience and a museum’s role in the community will take The James Museum to new levels of success and elevate how people throughout Tampa Bay and beyond, view our institution.”
Nicholson, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, was educated at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, and the University of Cambridge, England.
Debbie Sokolov joined The James Museum as the museum’s first Director of Development in 2020 and will serve as Interim Executive Director. Sokolov’s donor-centered and team-building approach have helped small and large nonprofits raise millions of dollars. Sokolov is a Certified Fund-Raising Executive (CFRE), holds a master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration and is the immediate Past-President of AFP Tampa Bay.
About The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art
The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art provides experiences that inspire human connection and transformation through art depicting the peoples, landscapes, and history of the American West, and wildlife of the world. More than 400 premiere works of art including sculpture, paintings and jewelry are on display in the museum’s 26,000 square feet of gallery space. The museum engages the community through programs and educational opportunities, for all ages, that bring our history to life and amplify voices that are not often at the forefront of mainstream Western art. When The James Museum opened in April 2018 it became one of the newest additions to St. Petersburg’s thriving arts community.