Stephanie Stebich (pronounced STEE-BISH) is the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the largest of the Smithsonian art museums. The museum’s mission is to celebrate the extraordinary creativity of artists whose works reflect the American experience and global connections. She is responsible for the nation’s premier collection of American art and major exhibition, research, publication, education and digital media programs at the museum and its branch, the Renwick Gallery, dedicated to American craft.
She was named director in January 2017. She oversees a staff of 150 professionals working across four locations, a collection of nearly 46,000 artworks and an annual budget of more than $22 million. Stebich also serves as co-chair of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.
Stebich’s priorities include endowing curatorial positions and fellowships, building the collection with an emphasis on increasing the representation of women and artists of color and supporting a culture that values inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. SAAM continues to be a leader in identifying and collecting significant aspects of American visual culture, including photography, modern folk and self-taught art, African American art, Latinx art and video games. Stebich has secured major acquisitions, including the transformative L.J. West Collection of early African American photography and an extraordinary Amish quilt collection from Faith and Stephen Brown. Under Stebich’s leadership, nearly $8 million has been raised to secure the future of its academic programs, including SAAM’s premier fellowship program, the oldest and largest program for the study of American art, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020.
Stebich has championed major exhibitions of new scholarship such as Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture (2020), ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now (2020) and Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano (2021) that continue to innovatively analyze important historical periods and artists. During her tenure, attendance at the museum’s two locations saw a terrific increase (prior to closures due to the global COVID-19 pandemic), with annual visits exceeding 3 million at its main building and the Renwick Gallery thanks to the popular exhibitions Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death and No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man.
Before coming to Washington, DC, Stebich was the executive director of the Tacoma Art Museum (2005-2016). Prior to her time in Washington state, she was assistant director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (2001-2004) and assistant director at the Cleveland Museum of Art (1995-2001). She has served as a trustee of both the Association of Art Museum Directors (2010-2014) and the American Alliance of Museums (2015-2021).
Stebich earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Columbia University and a master’s degree with a concentration in modern art from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She has a certificate in nonprofit management from Case Western Reserve University and is a graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute in Los Angeles. She was a Hilla Rebay Fellow at the Guggenheim Museum and studied at the University College London. She is fluent in German.
About the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the flagship museum in the United States for American art and craft. It is home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. The museum’s main building, located at Eighth and G streets N.W., is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum’s Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check online for current hours and admission information. Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.