About Ann E. Musser

Ann E. Musser

Associate Director for Academic Programs and Public Education, 2006–2014

Associate Curator of Education, 2002–2006


A guiding light dimmed at the Smith College Museum of Art with the passing of Ann Musser in 2014. Her visionary and loving spirit continues to affect the lives of all those who were fortunate to know her from her childhood in Kansas City, her undergraduate days at Grinnell, graduate work at Williams College and family life in Northampton, Holyoke and Istanbul.

Her natural leadership was driven by compassion and collaboration. As Associate Director for Academic Programs and Public Education, Ann was a strong advocate around issues of inclusion and cultural sensitivity. She felt very strongly that only by diversifying the pool of future museum professionals and museum advocates can institutions achieve a true sense of community access and relevance. She spoke often of her own early experiences of walking around museums and not knowing how long to stand in front of each artwork or what to say, and she was dedicated to making museums welcoming for all visitors.

During her tenure as Associate Director, she was instrumental in creating opportunities “in the pipeline” with the entry-level position of Post-Baccalaureate Fellow for Museum Education and the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies (2006–2011). Working closely with SCMA Director Jessica Nicoll, she launched SCMA’s museum studies program (The Museums Concentration). Ann also had a significant impact in pushing the entire museum staff towards a more collaborative working model by advocating for the creation of “Exhibition Teams.”

As a manager, Ann did not draw a strict line between work and life. With the recognition that engaging with art is about making meaning based on individual experience and personal connection, she created a department tone that invited “real life” into the office. She understood the importance of occasional dance breaks and “YouTube moments.” Her incisive intelligence, compassion and leadership were equally balanced by her love of karaoke, foosball, “creative chaos” and lattes with a double shot of espresso. In addition, her daughter Zeytin and son Ronan were a regular presence in the office. Their energy and creativity was a continual inspiration and reminder that museums can be fun and joyful places.

Early in her career at SCMA, Ann took her team of educators on a retreat to identify a departmental mission. After sharing personal passions, hopes and inspiration, the team identified their mission: “To facilitate A ha! moments through visual art.” These are the moments when visitors experience a shift in knowing or a sudden connection—with other people and perhaps within themselves. Ann was a natural facilitator of these moments, and she thrived at the intersection between art and people.