MASS MoCA Director Joe Thompson says he will step down from the North Adams, Massachusetts art museum after over 30 years on October 29th. Thompson is the sprawling museum’s founding director. It was first conceived in the late 1980’s and opened in 1999. Thompson will stay on as special counsel to the museum’s Board of Trustees for another year, and Tracy Moore will serve as interim director. His departure follows a tumultuous year that saw sweeping layoffs at the museum due to COVID-19 closures in March. The museum reopened in July. Thompson’s exit also comes as he faces a charge of motor vehicle homicide related to a 2018 incident where a motorcyclist died after a collision in North Adams. Thompson has pleaded not guilty.
Thompson, 62, spoke to WAMC about his time leading the museum, as well as why he’s chosen this moment to depart.