Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Winter 2005Kellogg School of Management
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  Kevin Consey '99 (EMBA)
  Kevin Consey '99 (EMBA)

Alumni Profile: Kevin Consey '99 (EMBA)

The fine art of fund raising
EMP alum enjoys challenge, culture of museum management

By Carl Vogel

If you want to build a new museum, Kevin Consey '99 is the man to call.

As director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at the University of California at Berkeley — working on raising the funds, creating consensus and hiring an architect for a $100 million facility — Consey is in the middle of his third building campaign. The Kellogg School alum is an expert in his field, having served as a consultant to dozens of institutions around the world looking to negotiate the challenging combination of artistic, aesthetic and financial factors that determine the success of a new museum.

"Most museum directors who are in the field for 15 or 20 years end up doing maybe one building project. That in Berkeley I'm doing my third is unusual — some would say masochistic," says Consey, a graduate of the Kellogg School Executive Master's Program. "Being a museum director on this task takes a mix of leadership, human resources management, donor and community relations. I suppose any industry presents comparable challenges."

Consey knew early on that he would pursue a career in museum management. An art history major at Hofstra University, he was a research intern at institutions like the National Gallery of Art and served as the director of the Emily Lowe Gallery at Hofstra before becoming director of the San Antonio Museum of Art in 1980. There, he supervised construction of a $12 million re-use of the museum's National Register buildings. From 1989 to 1999, he served as director and CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where he led the creation of new 220,000-square-foot facility and a $72 million building and endowment campaign.

While at the MCA, Consey decided to formalize his training in business administration, so he took a sabbatical to attend Kellogg. He offset tuition costs by consulting, an activity he enjoyed so much that he believed it might represent a new career path. And for two years it did. Then Berkeley offered him the director's job.

"This opportunity interrupted the idyllic dream world I had created for myself," he says with a laugh.

Assessing his professional efforts, the EMP-43 grad notes that the San Antonio and Chicago museums are dissimilar, and the Berkeley facility will likely be different still. So there is no "Consey style" museum. His job, as he sees it, is to find the unique mix of physical and pragmatic features needed by each institution. The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, for example, shows between 700 and 1,000 public screening each year, the materials drawn from its extensive film collection. But the facility also houses a very large art museum and is a research facility at an academic institution.

"There are some interesting challenges in the East Bay for this project," Consey says. "We're working in a seismic zone and with a large and complex institution in a public university, trying to create a unique identity and brand through the building. Then there are technical challenges, such as how to present the works in a visual culture."

Naturally, raising $100 million entirely from the public sector to fund the new facility is a big part of Consey's job. The economic times do not seem ripe for this task, but the Kellogg alum seems undaunted.

"It's probably never a good time to raise large amounts of money," he observes. "The process is long enough with a project such as ours that the effort is akin to a marathon, not a sprint. There's always going to be a full economic cycle during that process. The most important thing is creating a compelling case and being able to articulate it to donors."

Faced with the largest challenge of his career, Consey is enjoying Berkeley and the job, even though he does miss his Kellogg School classmates and Chicago. A collector of photography, especially prints of Japan and Japanese culture, he says that the film archive's core collection of Japanese work has been a chance to delve into another artistic specialty.

"A really fascinating thing about the Berkeley museum, and a great attraction to me, is the opportunity to work with this film archive and images," he says. "I spend a lot of time in the evenings at our movie screenings."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University