Donna Merkt believes that art and museums should connect diverse people, promote inclusivity and enrich lives. In June 2021, Merkt was named director of the South Dakota Art Museum. She relocated to Brookings from Oklahoma where she acted as director of Museum Experience for Oklahoma City’s Gaylord-Pickens Museum, home of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In this role, she led the staff responsible for education programming and outreach, special and permanent exhibitions, archives and collections. Under her direction, the Museum team converted permanent galleries to special exhibition space, updated archives and collections storage, provided opportunities for junior staff and community members to curate exhibits, digitized over 7,000 archival items for a publicly accessible database, launched several successful virtual and outreach programs and established partnerships for inclusive exhibits and programs.
Previously, Merkt served as curator of Education at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art (2008-2019) on the campus of St. Gregory’s University/Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, OK. There she introduced programs for diverse audiences including college students and faculty, adults with trauma, addictions, memory issues and students in juvenile detention. She created an annual award-winning arts festival to engage the campus and community and an annual community exhibit that benefited local charities. She also established robust school field trips and outreach programs- growing K-12 student participation from 3,500 to more than 18,000 annually. Merkt spearheaded the introduction of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) in Oklahoma and is honored to be a member of the first class of certified VTS facilitators internationally.
Active in state, regional and national museums associations, Merkt serves as the Mountain Plains Regional Representative for the American Alliance of Museums Education Committee. She is also a member of the Mountain-Plains Museums Association board, serving as chair of the Education Committee and as a member of the Finance and Governance committees.
Merkt received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cameron University (Lawton, OK) and her Master of Art in Art History from the University of Oklahoma. She continues to enjoy making art, as well as reading and kayaking.