HomeChinese AmericanNew president to step in to run Museum of Chinese in America

New president to step in to run Museum of Chinese in America

The board of the Museum of Chinese in America Tuesday named Michael Lee to be its new president.

MOCA chose Lee during a time of turbulence in its more than 23-year history of and hopes he can rebuild trust with the community, reports the New York Times.

Lee comes with a strong background working in both the Asian community and non-profit sector.

He currently serves as managing director of development at the New York Institute of Finance, an organization that trains individuals from some 120 countries in finance. Before that, he led APEX for Youth, a non-profit serving underserved Asian youth. He also worked as director of development for the Committee of 100, a group comprised of 100 top leaders in the Chinese American community dedicated to bettering U.S. China relations.

Community activists have protested in front of the museum since MOCA accepted a $35 million grant from New York in what was perceived as a quid pro quo for its support of the building of a controversial jail in Chinatown. It’s an accusation MOCA has continued to deny, but the grant led to several artists pulling out of an exhibition – forcing its cancellation.

In addition, he must oversee the construction of a new 68,000 square feet museum at a new location. The project designed by artist Maya Lin will cost $118 million at a time MOCA is facing a $1.8 million deficit.

MOCA is also recovering from a fire at a warehouse that destroyed 5 percent of its permanent collection in 2020.

Lee replaces interim director Nina Curley. Curley stepped in after previous director Nancy Yao left to accept a job as the first executive director of the new Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum. However, Yao stepped away from that position after it became known that under her leadership, MOCA settled three wrongful termination lawsuits filed by employees who had filed sexual harassment claims.

“She was a director at a really tough time,” Lee said of the former director.

Nonetheless, he says he’s excited about beginning a new position this coming April.

“The Museum of Chinese in America is one of the true gems of New York,” said Lee in a statement. “Telling the stories, promoting the culture and celebrating the accomplishments of this great Chinese community through thought-provoking exhibitions and engaging programming is something I cannot wait to be a part of. I eagerly anticipate transforming it into a space that my children and future generations will cherish visiting.”

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