Abbe Museum hires new executive director 

Betsy Richards

BAR HARBOR — Betsy Richards has been dedicated to building cultural and narrative power for Indigenous peoples and other BIPOC communities for over 25 years. The trustees of the Abbe Museum have selected Richards as the new executive director and senior partner with Wabanaki Nations. 

A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Richards brings a wealth of experience in museums, philanthropy, social justice and the performing arts to the role.  

For the last decade, Richards has led The Opportunity Agenda’s national cultural strategy initiatives with artists, influencers and advocates to shift narrative, culture and policy towards greater economic and racial justice. (The Opportunity Agenda is a nonprofit social justice communication lab in New York City.) Before that, she spent seven years as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, leading a $30M grantmaking effort for Native American and place-based cultural communities. 

While at Ford, Richards initiated the creation of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Starting in 1997, she spent five years as the inaugural director of public programs at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, the country’s largest tribal museum and research center.  

Richards has also consulted for the Eiteljorg Museum, the Montclair Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, The Natural History Museum and served on the team for the groundbreaking narrative change research project Reclaiming Native Truth. In addition, she has run two theater companies, served as a Fellow at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater and has developed and directed plays by Native playwrights on stages in New York, Los Angeles and Canada. Richards holds degrees from New York University and Yale University. 

“It is so important for us to have Betsy’s leadership at this time; the Abbe is poised for growth, and Betsy brings the skills and experience needed to realize our potential,” said Abbe Museum Board of Trustees Co-Chair Margo Lukens. 

Richard’s first day will be Oct. 1.  

Of her new position, Richards said, “I am thrilled to be joining the Abbe and looking forward to the opportunity to work in partnership with tribal representatives, continuing to build pathways to uplift the voices, histories and visions of Wabanaki people.” 

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