ABOVE PHOTO: Patricia Wilson Aden, President and CEO African American Museum in Philadelphia.
(Photo Credit: Whitney Thomas)
The African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) recently announced the appointment of Patricia Wilson Aden as its new President and CEO. Aden had served as Interim President since the December 2012 departure of previous President and CEO Romona Riscoe Benson. Consistent with the Succession Plan adopted by the Board in 2008, Aden took over the leadership of the Museum while a national search for Riscoe Benson’s replacement was initiated. As noted by Claire Lomax, Chair of AAMP’s Board of Directors, Aden quickly emerged as the best person to lead the Museum through its next phase. “AAMP is at a pivotal point in its 37 year history and in Patty, we have a person who understands our mission, our operation, our potential and our vision for the future.”
Aden assumes her new responsibilities with open and optimistic eyes and brings nearly three decades of experience in non-profit management to her position. She joined AAMP in 2010 as the Museum’s Vice President of Operations, a role that provided considerable exposure to the challenges and opportunities of this important cultural asset. Prior to joining AAMP, Aden served as the Executive Director of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, the only national non-profit dedicated to preserving Rhythm & Blues as a unique American musical genre. Before working with the Foundation, she was Vice President for Arts & Culture for Universal Companies, a non-profit founded by legendary R&B producer Kenny Gamble. Her focus at Universal Companies included conceptualization of the Philadelphia Economic Development and Musical Heritage Strategy.
Aden began her career in the field of historic preservation. As Director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, she coordinated capacity-building for statewide preservation organizations in the mid-Atlantic as well as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. She also held positions as the President of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia and the Executive Director of the District of Columbia’s Preservation League.
AAMP’s current exhibition, “Come See About Me: The Mary Wilson Supremes Collection,” which features gowns once worn by Motown recording artists The Supremes, was Aden’s brainchild. The exhibition has drawn national attention, raised awareness of AAMP, attracted new audiences in unprecedented numbers and earned financial support from PNC Bank and other corporate supporters. “We wanted to present an exhibition that would tell an iconic story of American pop culture that would not only resonate with the museum’s traditional audience, but also speak to a broader audience base,” Aden said. Due to its popularity, “Come See About Me” has been extended through August 18.
Lomax sees a bright future for AAMP with Aden at the helm, ready to take on both creative and operational leadership. “We are now poised to advance the museum’s mission by engaging in comprehensive, bold initiatives that will capitalize on our recent successes, and remind people of AAMP’s contribution to the vibrancy of Philadelphia’s cultural landscape,” she said. “We hope to attract supporters of arts and culture in the city to invest in AAMP’s exciting plans for remaining relevant and accessible to the broader community.” Aden voiced similar goals. Future plans for the museum call for an expansion of the breadth and depth of its exhibits and educational programming that will build AAMP’s visibility and attract new resources to fulfill its mission. “Our institution offers an American story that must be offered to all. We are exploring this vision in the partnerships we pursue, along with the dynamic programming we will develop,” she said.
Aden’s vision for the museum also includes focused efforts to mentor the next generation of talent in the field of African American history and stewardship. The museum hopes to continue its current Fellowship in Museum Practice program funded by The Institute of Museum and Library Science (IMLS). The program provides students pursuing graduate level degrees in African American history and related fields valuable hands-on experience by working in the museum for one year.
The museum is well positioned to be the region’s focal point of African American culture and to be an invaluable hospitality partner in curating the Philadelphia experience. “We are thrilled with the appointment of Patricia Wilson Aden as president of the African American Museum of Philadelphia,” said Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. “She has been a great partner and with her extensive cultural background and history with the museum, she will be great in this role – both for AAMP and for Philadelphia.”
“Patricia’s vision for strategic programming offerings will truly support our presentations to meeting planners who are seeking the solid cultural and historical aspects of this city as the backdrop to their convention experience,” stated Jack Ferguson, President & CEO of PCVB.
Aden holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Spelman College and a Master of Arts in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University. She also received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia.