Steve and Wendy image

A good museum makes
“a positive difference in the quality of people’s lives.”
Stephen E. Weil
Making Museums Matter, 2002


From Wendy Luke


“If you want an open, honest and accountable culture at your museum, you must let go of the traditional, hierarchical structure and decision-making culture that make museums stale and sometimes irrelevant.”


Wendy Luke When I was growing up in Manhattan, MoMA was my playground. Today I live in Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C., and the Kennedy Center is my neighbor across the street – one that I visit many nights every year.

I remember, at age 12 or so, standing in front of Picasso’s Guernica, transfixed by its imagery (if not yet fully comprehending its meaning). Just a few years later, age 21 and on my first job at LIFE magazine, I was one of original volunteers trained to staff the information desk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art just three blocks from my childhood home. For a year, I spent three Saturdays every month doing just that – and still recall the group of young boys who came up to the desk wanting to know, in a whisper, where the “sexy” art was!

I met my late husband, Stephen Weil, through a friend with whom I regularly attended summer concerts at Tanglewood, and who knew Steve through her work with him on an arts commission in New York. Among many other cultural adventures, Steve and I experienced St. Petersburg in the full glory of its 300th anniversary celebration; were given a private tour, by the project director, of the newly built Jüdisches Museum Berlin just before the exhibits were installed; and traveled by mail plane, and a two-hour ride over bumpy terrain in a Land Cruiser to see the Aboriginal cave paintings on Cape York in Australia.

And, in a fine illustration of life coming full circle, I recently had the pleasure of spending a day alone with my 10-year-old grandson at the International Spy Museum. The delight of experiencing the museum through his eyes – of course he loved all the gadgets! – was particularly special for me because of the work I have done for the museum.

So museums, the performing arts, and diverse cultural experiences have long been an integral part of my life. I value their role in the larger society and have acquired an intimate understanding of the inner workings of the museum and cultural community. This allows me to bring both passion and insight to the consulting work I do with museums.

I also bring the strength and diversity of my own professional experience in the corporate world. As both an internal and external consultant, I have experienced the good times, the bad times, the times of intense transition – and the impact of these times on the people working for dozens of companies.

Wall StreetI’ve dealt with the intricacies of departmental budgeting, and its impact on staff, in a huge publishing company; experienced first hand the rapid rise and equally rapid fall of a Wall Street darling (the failure to assimilate staff expansion, the confusion, the miscommunication, the anger, and the mass layoffs); and figured out how to operate professionally within a culture of excess (artistic and otherwise) in a highly successful, major recording company. I’ve worked on multi-billion-dollar turnarounds and workouts.

In my work on the non-profit side, I learned how different the motivations and pace are, well-defined means to hold people accountable, and creative ways to measure success.

I believe, as did Stephen, that a museum serves its public and community best when its mission and values are in line, all who work within its “walls” are pulling together, and visitors are as excited as my grandson was when he asked, “Grandma, when can we go back?”