I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as Director of the Seattle Art Museum effective June 30th. This was a difficult decision for me but with SAM today in a much stronger position than when I arrived, I believe the time is right for a change in leadership.

When the fiscal year ends on June 30th, we will post what might well be the most successful year in SAM’s 78-year history:

  • More visitors than ever to Downtown SAM (projected to be nearly 600,000)
  • Membership at an all time high (more than 48,000 household members)
  • Increased levels of community engagement
  • Picasso exhibition which had region-wide impact
  • Stabilization of our financial situation and real estate dilemma

I am proud that SAM has achieved so much and I am confident that the institution will continue to build on this success.

I am eager for a break and for the chance to undertake my own projects. First, I aim to spend more time with my family and refresh my professional perspective.  My passion for art history has been on hold while I focused on the most urgent administrative and financial challenges here.  Now, I want to re-establish my personal connection with the artists, objects, and ideas that got me into museum work in the first place.  My family and I have fallen in love with Seattle and we expect to remain here, so I hope to see you often.

Please know that I am grateful for having had this opportunity to serve the Seattle Art Museum and this community.


Derrick R. Cartwright

Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director

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  • Derrick stepped up as Director of SAM during difficult times. He oversaw a revival of the institution’s spirit and foreshadowed a hopeful trend toward scholarship and connection to the community of the Northwest. I am sure that this was a difficult choice for him to make and I am sure it was the right one for him and his family.

    I hope that SAM will find another Director with the quiet charisma and intelligence that Derrick displayed during his tenure. Someone who understands the importance of NW art and a vision that can follow his lead.

  • I’ve been inspired and touched by Derrick’s willingness to participate in creative conversations outside of SAM’s walls. From attending Free Lunch presentations at the Hedreen Gallery, attending a community workshop on digital storytelling and the arts, to being a terrific contributor to our David Wojnarowicz panel discussion – he seems to genuinely want to be involved in many different aspects of Seattle’s cultural community, and shows up to things that are obviously not “Museum Directors MUST attend” events – but are events and activities that shape our community in interesting ways. I’m glad that he’s staying in town and will continue to be part of the conversation.

  • Stephanie Stebich

    These museum leadership jobs are hard and demanding given the increasing complexity of arts institutions. I thank and salute Derrick for his collegiality, grace, wisdom, and friendship.
    Stephanie Stebich

  • Cameron Newland

    Derrick truly has been a phenomenal leader, and he has personally been an inspiration to me. Finding an equally talented executive will be a difficult task.

  • Carol

    Wow, not much time for a search and transition for such an important position.

  • Yes this will be a great loss. Thank you Derrick for your wonderful contribution to our art community. SAM definitely seems rejuvenated. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors!

    Lisa Gilley

  • Greg Kucera

    Derrick’s resignation will mean a great loss to this community. His presence, visibility, courage, good manners, and intelligence have been great assets to those of in the arts community here. He will be hard to replace.
    I only hope he is able to stay in Seattle.
    Greg Kucera