This fall, Canadian art historian and administrator Gaetane Verna will become the fourth executive director of the Wexner Center for the Arts.
Verna, director and artistic director of Toronto’s Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery since 2012, will begin her tenure at Ohio State University’s avant-garde art center on Nov. 15. She replaces Johanna Burton, who left the post after two years in November 2021 to become executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles.
“I am very excited, very proud and very honored to be able to build on the work that others have done at the Wexner Center,” Verna said by phone from Toronto.
“The Wexner Center is a place of production, of research by artists. It is an institution with the ability to support new works and residencies in a multi-disciplinary environment.”
More: Profile of Sherri GeldinA higher profile
Ohio State Executive Vice President and Provost Melissa L. Gilliam described Verna as an arts administrator “with deep experience in elevating emerging and established artists,” she said in a press statement. “She believes strongly in the role of contemporary art as a conduit for exploring important issues and engaging communities.”
Verna was born to Haitian parents in the Republic of the Congo but has lived since she was 2 years old in Canada. Her past work includes positions as executive director and chief curator of the Musee d’art de Joliette in Quebec (2006-2012), curator of the Foreman Art Gallery at Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, Quebec (1999-2006), and teaching art history at Bishop’s University and the Universite du Quebec a Montreal.
She has curated and organized exhibits especially featuring emerging and mid-career artists and has edited and contributed essays to numerous books and catalogs. Currently, she serves on the board of directors of the Canada Council for the Arts, TV5 Quebec Canada, the Holt/Smithson Foundation and the Sobey Art Foundation.
Verna compared the Wexner Center to the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Like the Power Plant and the Walker Art Center, she said, the Wexner Center “has a different mandate than a museum that collects works of art.”
Since its founding in 1989, the Wexner Center has functioned as a multidisciplinary, international laboratory exploring and advancing contemporary art. In addition to visual art, the center offers film, performances, artist residencies and educational programs.
“The Wexner is a place where questions and issues are asked and talked about way before it happens in regular society,” Verna said. “That’s what an art center should be doing – taking its cues from artists … I am in awe of artists and their ability to transform the world in which we live.”
More: Wexner Center for the ArtsWexner Center seeks to engage more visitors
Wexner Center Foundation Board President Bill Lambert said in a press statement that Verna “brings strongly relevant experience to the center, grounded in presenting multiple disciplines, providing a platform for underrepresented as well as established artists, and maintaining a dialogue with the community she serves.”
Executive Committee Chair and center namesake Abigail Wexner said that Verna’s skills and qualities fit the Wexner Center. “She’s an engaging, curious and perceptive leader, dedicated to connecting the public with the art of our times,” she said in a press statement.
Verna will move to Columbus while her husband temporarily remains in Canada. Their older daughter attends university and their younger daughter has a year left of high school.
She said she is particularly excited to be part of the Ohio State University community, to have the support of the Wexner family and to continue building on the Wexner Center’s reputation in the contemporary art world.
“If you’re lucky enough to have a healthy organization with a great reputation,” she said, “then the job is to continue the work and be relevant nationally, internationally and locally.”
Directors of the Wexner Center for the Arts:
∙ Robert Stearns, founding director, 1989 to 1992∙ Sherri Geldin, 1993 to 2018∙ Johanna Burton, 2019 to 2021∙ Gaetane Verna, appointed in August 2022


Shop Sephari