Placed Leaders

Nora Atkinson

Executive Director

Museum of Craft and Design

We partnered with the Museum of Craft and Design on the search for an Executive Director. The Museum of Craft and Design showcases designers, makers, and artists through an exciting and distinctive series of craft and design-focused exhibitions and public programs.

Our work resulted in the recruitment of Nora Atkinson to the role.

Previously, Atkinson served as the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge for the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where she oversaw acquisitions, exhibitions, research, publications, patron relations, and staff at the gallery. In 2018, she was named Washingtonian’s “Best Boundary-Pushing Curator” for her work on the critically-acclaimed exhibitions, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man (2018) and Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death (2017).

In this role, Atkinson also organized exhibitions that pointed to new directions in the field of craft and underscored craft’s contemporary relevance. Her 2018 project, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man (2018), created a sensation and attracted record-breaking crowds, more than doubling attendance at the Renwick that year to nearly 850,000 visitors. The exhibition brought cutting-edge artwork created at the annual desert gathering to the nation’s capital for the first time.

Other notable exhibitions include the popular Murder is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death (2017), Rick Araluce: The Final Stop (2018) and Visions and Revisions: Renwick Invitational 2016. She oversaw the installation of the permanent collection galleries, Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery, in 2015, following a two-year closure of the Renwick Gallery for renovation, and again in 2019 following the building take-over by the No Spectators exhibition, and with colleague Mary Savig, oversaw a major acquisitions campaign in honor of the Renwick’s 50th Anniversary, commemorated with a catalogue and exhibition entitled, This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World.

Atkinson has written and spoken extensively about her work. She presented a TED talk, “Why art thrives at Burning Man,” in Vancouver in 2018.  She is also the author of Craft for a Modern World: The Renwick Gallery Collection (2015) and co-author of exhibition catalogues including Visions and Revisions (2016), and This Present Moment (2022). Her research interests center on contemporary art and craft, humanism, and the role of the handmade in the digital age.

Before joining the Renwick, Atkinson was a Curator at Bellevue Arts Museum in Bellevue, Washington.

Atkinson earned a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is a graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute’s executive leadership program.