Jon Seydl, Director of Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2022. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer.

It is a true privilege to become the director of Krannert Art Museum, an institution I have long admired, and to join such an incredible team with a national reputation for excellence. In my former perch at the Worcester Art Museum, I was well aware of KAM’s outstanding collection, renowned curators, impressive exhibition program (including the NEH-funded World on the Horizon, now on national tour), and the flagship KAM–WAM education program. The museum plays a critical role at the university and in the region, and it’s an honor to lead that charge. 

KAM serves as a lab, a sanctuary, and a civic commons. As a lab KAM takes on a central role at a major research university—presenting cutting-edge scholarship, supporting faculty and students, and forging pioneering programming, most notably our work with the Champaign and Urbana public school districts. As a sanctuary we provide safe harbor for challenging ideas, a dignified forum to address difficult subjects, and a place of respite and for slowing down in an era with increasingly few places for contemplation.  At the same time, we serve as a civic commons—bringing our university and community together with our exhibitions, programs, and welcoming space, both to engage our minds and for joy and fun.

With these principles guiding us, you will see great things in the coming months. We have refreshed our gallery of ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities for the first time in decades. Among the outstanding fall exhibitions, all curated by our team, are Blue & White, where Maureen Warren unites our exceptional Chinese, European, and American holdings around the global appetite for blue and white ceramics. In Between the Buildings, Kathryn Koca Polite mines KAM’s remarkable strengths in twentieth-century art from and about Chicago. And in October, Amy Powell presents The Special Relationship, the first American survey of work by the Irish duo Kennedy Browne, which includes the debut of Real World Harm—KAM’s first foray into virtual reality. 

To add to these offerings, we will launch a new series on the lower level lobby. The Response Wall will allow students, faculty, staff, and community members to select one or two works at a time from the collection that they feel respond to current issues and events. The collection choices will change regularly, and the series will include a space for visitors to talk back. 

I am also thrilled to announce that in June, we exceeded the goals for KAM’s five-year fundraising initiative, raising over $10M to support our flagship education programs, develop the collection through gifts of art and funds for acquisitions and conservation, and pursue long-overdue gallery renovations, including the beautiful suite of galleries on the first floor of the 1960s building. We are immensely grateful to former director Kathleen Harleman and to Brenda Nardi in Development for their hard work in shaping this initiative, and of course to all those who contributed—addressed in more depth in the center of this publication.

KAM is always free, and we are incredibly grateful for the private support that allows us to serve the students, faculty, and staff of the U of I and all residents of east-central Illinois. Come to our opening events this fall! We hope to see all of you at our programs. If you haven’t been in a while, please come back. We are here for you, and there is always something new happening at KAM.


Jon L. Seydl, Director