CLINTON — The founding director of the Museum of Russian Icons, Kent Dur Russell, has announced he plans to retire in May after more than 16 years at the helm of the Clinton-based museum.
Founded in 2006, the Museum of Russian Icons is the only museum in the country dedicated to Russian icons, holding the largest collection of icons outside of Russia. Russell was integral to the founding, building and expansion of the museum and guided the institution through years of dynamic growth.
“Thanks to the vision of our founder Gordon Lankton and the exceptional efforts of our staff and supporters, our team has created an organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in record time. The creation of this organization was the cornerstone of my 45-year career in museums, which began in 1977 as a researcher at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin,” said Russell. “I am very proud of our collective achievements and grateful to everyone whose creativity, vision and hard work have made them possible. The museum is in great shape and ready for a seamless and smooth transition to a new direction. »
Prior to working with Lankton to open the museum, Russell served as executive director of the Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester, from 1996 to 2007. He has also served as Curator of Collections at the Fitchburg Art Museum, Associate Director of Programs and Education at Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, NY, and Managing Director of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Gallery in Belfast, Ireland.
“The Museum of Russian Icons has experienced tremendous growth and development during Kent’s 16-year tenure,” said Jack McCabe, Chairman of the Board. “Kent’s years of hard work, dedication and dynamic leadership have helped make tremendous accomplishments possible, earning the appreciation and gratitude of local and museum communities. We are grateful for his commitment to ensuring that the museum is positioned for continued organizational growth, financial stability and unlimited potential.
Partnership for the construction of a museum
“I met Gordon Lankton in 1995 when I was curator at the Fitchburg Art Museum,” Russell said. “I had heard that an art collector ran a manufacturing facility near Clinton. So I called him and he said, come on over and I’ll show you around. On that first visit , I was mesmerized by its plastic molding factory, Nypro It was thrilling to watch raw plastic pellets enter one end of a high tech molding machine and exit the other end as a Bic pen or a precision molded component of medical equipment. After that, I stayed in touch and asked him for his support for some projects, to which he always responded generously.
“Over time, we became friends. I would visit his house from time to time and browse his collection of icons,” Russell added. “Our growing friendship led to the organization of his first museum exhibit at the Higgins Armory Museum in 2004, titled Shields of Faith. Gordon then asked me to join him and David Durrant in designing a museum for his icons, negotiating with the board of the Higgins Armory one day off a week from my job as director there. I joined his team for two years while we designed and began building the Clinton Museum.
“Then in 2006, when I was offered a management position at another museum in New England, I went to see Gordon to say goodbye to him, and on the spot he asked me to join his full-time staff instead. As the saying goes, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Russell said. “My work at his museum has been a blast; working so closely with Gordon was challenging and exciting. It was also an exceptional opportunity for me to see philanthropy up close. The bonus was to travel several times with Gordon to Russia and Europe to organize international exhibitions for the museum, hunt for icons or attend auctions around the world.
“Building the museum was what Gordon loved to do; he devoted his post-Nypro years to this project, so it was always fun and an adventure; it never felt like work. Didn’t it just the best way to live a life?” said Russel.
Born in New York in 1952, where his father ran Russell Marketing Research, Russell left the United States at an early age to attend boarding schools in France and Ireland. He attended Trinity College Dublin (TCD), where he received his BA in 1975 and an MA in 1978. He obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in History of European Painting, was awarded the prestigious Purser Research Fellowship -Griffith at the National Gallery of Ireland, and holds a graduate degree in art history from the City College of New York, where his research focused on Mark Rothko.
Prior to his fellowship at the National Gallery, he undertook a 7,500 mile overland journey from Dublin to Kathmandu through Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal.
Russell has held curatorial positions at the National Gallery of Ireland, the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin, Ireland, the Newry Art Center, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Contemporary Art Gallery in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the Museum of Art, Science and Industry in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the New Museum, the Studio Museum of Harlem and the New Museum of Hispanic Art in New York, the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, NY and the Fitchburg Art Museum.
Russell is a trustee of the Lankton Charitable Corporation and the Ballets Russes Arts Initiative in Boston, and vice-chairman of the executive committee of the Tower Hill Botanic Garden. He is a corporator at the Worcester Art Museum and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation and was a member of the Client Advisory Council of the US Trust, Bank of America.
Russell was president of the New England Museum Association (NEMA) from 2005 to 2007, chaired the Council of Regional Associations of the American Association of Museum (AAM), and has been a member of the AAM since 1976. He has been the president founder of the Worcester Cultural Coalition, during which he received the keys to the city of Worcester.
He lives with his wife, a doctor trained at Trinity College Dublin, in the oldest house in Lunenburg and has two adult sons.