Women Cultural Leaders: Aileen Fuchs, President, National Building Museum

Our spring arts preview featured 20 women cultural leaders in Washington, D.C. We wanted to amplify their voices in our online newsletters, spotlighting each of them individually. Our Monday April 4 newsletter features Aileen Fuchs, president and executive director, National Building Museum.

THE GEORGETOWNER:  D.C. should have a “spring awakening” of sorts after 2 long years of Covid. What are you most looking forward to for your institution this season?

AILEEN FUCHS: Museums should be about great experiences—and aren’t we all craving more in-person experiences with friends and family!? This spring at the National Building Museum our visitors can experience the power of architecture and design in really dynamic ways. From March 24-26 we will be hosting the Architecture and Design Film Festival:DC; on April 10 we invite guests of all ages to Planet Curious – A World of Climate Curiosity, our Climate Day Festival; and we are about to announce the opening of an incredible new augmented reality experience in late April. Stay tuned!

GEORGETOWNER: What led you to become a leader in your organization? Tell us a bit about your career trajectory and inspirations along the way?

AF: My father is an engineer, his father was an engineer, and there wasn’t a parking lot, public pool or water treatment plant in my hometown that they didn’t have a hand in. I lead with that because, in hindsight, it had a formative effect on my worldview that later intersected with my career. Through high school and college, I was drawn to theater and the arts. Later when I moved to New York City, I came to see exhibitions as a powerful, immersive, visual way to tell a story. I was hooked. I worked on countless exhibitions that conveyed nuanced histories and that compelled visitors to examine the world around them in new ways. And as I rose in my career, I saw the power of arts & culture as drivers of regional economies. Most recently, at Snug Harbor on Staten Island, I oversaw the cultural programming and property management of an historic 83-acre site that serves as the cultural anchor for an entire borough. It is considered one of the largest on-going adaptive reuse projects in the country. So when the opportunity arose to consider leading the National Building Museum, I saw it as a culmination of my interests and experiences: adaptive reuse, exciting cultural engagement, civic participation, infrastructure & design and storytelling.  And while moving to DC had not been on my radar, I felt deeply compelled to seize the opportunity. As I see it, we are living in a triple crisis moment: trying to emerge from a public health crisis, in an ongoing crisis of racial and social inequity and very much in a climate crisis. These factors combine to make more people care more than ever about building a better world, which is at the very core of the mission of the NBM. We engage people about the built environment and its impact on our lives and communities. I feel we have an incredible opportunity to convene communities and tell stories that can have a profound impact, at a national scale.  As a leader, that is a responsibility that I put in front of myself every day and every day I strive to make some bit of progress.

GEORGETOWNER: What are you most proud of accomplishing while serving in your position?

AF: The opportunity and responsibility to lead the Museum at this important juncture is something I take very seriously—and I have a deep sense of pride around my new role. I am grateful to learn from the very talented Museum staff and excited about all we will accomplish together.

For more information on the National Building Museum go to https://www.nbm.org/.



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