Stephanie Stebich, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director

September 15, 2023

Stephanie Stebich (pronounced STEE-BISH) is the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 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 $24 million.   

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. Under her leadership, the museum is engaged in a multiyear renewal and reinstallation of its permanent collection galleries, titled “American Voices and Visions,” slated for overall completion in 2026 in honor of America’s semiquincentennial. 

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is 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, the Dr. Robert L. Drapkin Collection and the Amish quilt collection from Faith and Stephen Brown. She has secured more than $10 million for the future of the museum’s academic programs, including its 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 an 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 in 2018 thanks in part 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, D.C., Stebich was the executive director of the Tacoma Art Museum (2005–2016). Prior to that, 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 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:

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Press - Stephanie Stebich

SAAM's Director Stephanie Stebich in front of Louise Nevelson's Sky Cathedral. Photo by Libby Weiler