Donna Merkt, who is currently the director of museum experience at Oklahoma City’s Gaylord-Pickens Museum and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, has been named the director of the South Dakota Art Museum following a national search. Merkt replaces Lynn Verschoor, who retired after 20 years in the position.
“Donna’s experience and record of success made her a very strong candidate for the position,” said SDSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dennis Hedge. “The South Dakota Art Museum is critical to not only to our university and local community, but also the state. With Donna’s leadership, we look forward to continuing the strong partnerships built over the years while expanding our reach via new outreach and engagement opportunities that will make the museum even more impactful to the citizens of South Dakota. Donna brings extensive experience in those areas and I am confident that she will continue to advance the museum and SDSU’s role in extending the visual arts and art education to communities throughout South Dakota.”
Merkt has held her current role since April 2019 and leads the Gaylord-Pickens Museum staff that is responsible for education programming and outreach, special and permanent exhibitions, archives and collections. She has led outreach efforts that have included engagement with Oklahoma public schools, the establishment of the Gaylord-McCasland Teacher Fellowship, internships for college students, a comprehensive number of virtual education programs and numerous grant awards to fund educational programs and special exhibits.
“I am thrilled to join the team at SDSU as director of the South Dakota Art Museum and I am eager to connect with staff, stakeholders and audiences across the state to develop creative collaborations that make the museum relevant and accessible to all,” Merkt said. “The future South Dakota Art Museum is a dynamic, vibrant intersection of campus and community. The fantastic art collection will serve as a vehicle to encourage learning statewide, nurture creativity and enrich lives.”
Prior her time in Oklahoma City, Merkt was the curator of education at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art from 2008 to 2019 on the campus of St. Gregory’s University/Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma. During her tenure, participation in education program at the museum increased by 400%, resulting in the organization receiving the 2015 Oklahoma Governor’s Arts Award for outstanding leadership in Arts in Education. She also spearheaded the introduction of Visual Thinking Strategies in Oklahoma and was a member of the first class of certified VTS facilitators internationally.
Merkt is the Mountain Plains Regional Representative for the American Alliance of Museums Education Committee. A member of the Mountain-Plains Museums Association board, she is chair of the education committee and a
member of the finance and governance committees.
Merkt received her BFA degree from Cameron University and a Master of Art in art history from the University of Oklahoma. She will start with the South Dakota Art Museum June 1.