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A space in the renovated Minnesota Museum of American Art. Photo by Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Former Penumbra Theatre managing director Chris Widdess quietly took over this summer as interim director of the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

Two months after the firing of longtime executive director Kristin Makholm, the M does not have a public timeline for hiring her replacement. And while other museums in the Twin Cities open their doors again, the M remains shuttered by the pandemic, and doesn't plan to reopen until next June. In the meantime, the museum is hosting mini-exhibitions in the window galleries at the corner of Robert and 4th streets and neighboring skyways.

A spokesperson said that, starting next week, the museum's board will hold workshops to review its finances, operations, and capital campaign. The goal is to refine the museum’s focus before starting a national search for a new director.

Curator Laura Joseph, who joined the museum a little over a year ago, is working on a vision for the programmatic and creative aspects of the museum.

Widdess declined to comment, noting that she is just the management person “charged with providing leadership and stability through the transition,” according to a spokesperson for the M.

When Makholm took the helm in July 2009, the museum was practically bankrupt and had no permanent space. She found a home for it in downtown St. Paul's historic Pioneer Endicott building, where it celebrated a grand opening in December 2018.

That was just the first phase in an multimillion-dollar capital campaign to carve out a new space in the 130-year-old building, designed in part by State Capitol renovation plan. The board will be reviewing decisions and timeline about phase two, originally planned for completion next year.

M board chairman Gregory Page would not say why Makholm was fired. Makholm also has declined to comment.