Baltimore, MD—The Walters Art Museum announced today that Theresa Sotto will join the museum as its new Ruth R. Marder Director of Learning & Community Engagement, reporting to Walters Director Julia Marciari-Alexander. Originally from Baltimore, Sotto comes to the Walters from the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where she served as the Associate Director of Academic Programs since 2014. Sotto will be the first director of the Walters’ newly restructured Learning & Community Engagement department, which was relaunched in Spring 2021 to develop and implement new models of museum education centered on community engagement, public programs, and Pre-K to Grade 12 students, teachers, and families. This restructuring is also part of the museum’s expanded commitment to achieving its DEAI goals, which were announced in March 2021 and are posted on the Walters’ website. Sotto will begin her work at the Walters October 4, 2021.
“It is such a pleasure to welcome Theresa to the Walters, and I am gratified for both the museum and our community that we will have such a knowledgeable and passionate educator in charge of this newly restructured department,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, the Andrea B. & John H. Laporte Director of the Walters Art Museum. “We were fortunate to have a strong field of candidates from which to choose, and equally fortunate that Theresa accepted the position. And while being from Baltimore was not a requirement, I also know that Theresa’s personal connections with this city only enhance her understanding of our goals and our work.”
At the Hammer, where Sotto served first as the Assistant Director of Academic Programs (2014-2018) and then as Associate Director of Academic Programs (2018 to present), she led a team of 20 full- and part-time staff. Her responsibilities included developing cross-disciplinary arts-based programs for all ages, overseeing the internationally-recognized Classroom-in-Residence at the Hammer program, and launching the multi-generational Art and Activism mentorship program. During her tenure, Sotto prioritized authentic collaborations, creating programs that are grounded in shared goals with a range of community partners, including artists, public schools, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) academic departments across disciplines, and external organizations—skills and experiences that make her exceptionally well-suited to her new position at the Walters.
Prior to joining the Hammer, Sotto worked for seven years as an Education Specialist at the J. Paul Getty Museum, where she managed professional development for teachers and created new resources such as the Getty’s award-winning Historical Witness, Social Messaging curriculum. Sotto has also held consulting roles to develop educational resources for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Central to Sotto’s career has been a commitment to creating inclusive spaces for diverse communities, both internally and externally; this work has taken multiple forms, addressing both programmatic and staff initiatives. At the Hammer, Sotto was a founding co-leader of the steering committee of the museum’s cross-departmental Diversity and Inclusion Group, and she has also served on the UCLA School of Art and Architecture’s inaugural Anti-Racism, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Commission. She is the co-editor of a forthcoming book, From Small Wins to Sweeping Change: Working Together to Foster Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism in Museums, published by the American Alliance of Museums and Rowman and Littlefield.
“I am honored and excited to join the Walters Art Museum in this critical moment of change,” said Sotto. “Museums have the potential to be community hubs as much as they are sites for cultural exchange, and I’m eager to deepen the Walters’ engagement with community partners in meaningful and innovative ways. I have dedicated my career to harnessing the power of art to foster dialogue, creative agency, and social change, and I’m thrilled to bring my passion for art education and community engagement back to my hometown of Baltimore.”
In Spring 2021, the Walters announced the expansion of its commitment to education, learning, and engagement, through the restructuring and growth of the Learning & Community Engagement and Visitor Experience departments. Over the next year, the museum expects to hire for new positions dedicated to community engagement and partnerships, audience evaluation and impact, and accessibility, along with other roles supporting the Walters’ public, family, and school programs.
“With this shift from a classic museum ‘education’ department to ‘Learning & Community Engagement,’ we are also embracing a new approach in which we are fostering shared, reciprocal learning, dialogue, and evolution,” said Marciari-Alexander. “This represents a fundamental change in how we approach our work with our Baltimore communities, families, and partners.”
The museum’s search for the new Director of Learning & Community Engagement was managed by Stephen Milbauer, Managing Associate at Koya Partners.
About Ruth R. Marder
A longtime supporter of the Walters Art Museum and former docent, Ruth R. Marder (1928-2011) was a Baltimore philanthropist whose interests ranged from the arts to educational and medical institutions. In 2014, the Trustees of the Ruth Carol Fund endowed the director of education role at the Walters in memory of Ruth R. Marder and in recognition of the importance of this position in meeting the museum’s mission.
About the Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum is a cultural hub in the heart of Baltimore, located in the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. The museum’s collection spans more than seven millennia, from 5000 BCE to the 21st century, and encompasses 36,000 objects from around the world. Walking through the museum’s historic buildings, visitors encounter a stunning panorama of thousands of years of art, from romantic 19th-century images of French gardens to mesmerizing Ethiopian icons, richly illuminated Qur’ans and Gospel books, ancient Roman sarcophagi, and serene images of the Buddha. Since its founding, the Walters’ mission has been to bring art and people together to create a place where people of every background can be touched by art. As part of this commitment, admission to the museum and special exhibitions is always free.
Admission to the museum is free. The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 N. Charles St., north of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. For general museum information, call 410-547-9000 or visit thewalters.org.
Free access to the Walters Art Museum, online and in person, is made possible through the combined generosity of individual supporters, foundations, corporations, and grants from the City of Baltimore, Maryland State Arts Council, Citizens of Baltimore County, and Howard County Government and Howard County Arts Council.