Hassan Najjar resigns museum position

Director accepts post in Colorado

LARRY C. BOWERS Banner Staff Writer
Posted 2/26/16

Cleveland’s Museum Center at Five Points is losing its top official.

Hassan Najjar, the executive director of the museum, has informed the board of trustees he will be resigning effective March …

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Hassan Najjar resigns museum position

Director accepts post in Colorado

Posted

Cleveland’s Museum Center at Five Points is losing its top official.

Hassan Najjar, the executive director of the museum, has informed the board of trustees he will be resigning effective March 4.

Najjar joined the museum three years ago, during challenging times. At the time, the museum was struggling to meet its mission and cement its identity as a destination for history, arts and culture within the region.

Najjar has been widely credited for his transformational leadership of the Museum Center, the realignment of its mission and being an advocate for the museum in the community and nationwide.

Notable accomplishments under Najjar’s direction include the creation of three new exhibit spaces, a consistent and upgraded schedule of exhibits, a new slate of mission-focused programming, housing the permanent collection, receiving Smithsonian accreditation, an overhaul of heating and air conditioning, and the recent facelift of the Museum store and lobby.

“Hassan’s leadership and vision reshaped the Museum Center into a true community asset,” said Mike Griffin, board president.

“He’s the type of guy that rolls up his sleeves and gets the job done, and that’s the example he set for his staff and for this board. It’s easy to see the physical changes, like the new exhibit areas, reconfigured lobby and store, and marketing materials,” Griffin added.

The board president went on to say, “It’s his work behind the scenes that’s leading us to stability, lowering our operating expenses and increasing our revenue. It has truly been an honor to mentor and work with Hassan. I hate to see him leave, but I’m excited about his future and look forward to following his career.”

Najjar is leaving to accept another position. He will become the executive director of the Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colo., in April.

Anyone interested in applying for the job at the Museum Center at Five Points can visit www.museumcenter.org for more details.

Najjar says that for every change the public saw at the Museum Center at Five Points, there were many more behind the scenes that helped propel the success of the facility. There were accreditation reports, collections, studies, inventories, and audience assessments.

Najjar point outs that his was not a one-man-show. “Our remarkable staff and board of trustees deserve so much credit,” says Najjar. “We’ve set out on some pretty large projects in these past three years, and our team continued to work hard to realize each of them. This group of individuals fueled our success and I’m thankful for each of them.”

Financially, Najjar said the Museum Center has shown a dramatic improvement to its bottom line, compared to 2013. He credits this to the outpouring of community support from museum members, local foundations, corporate sponsorships, and cost-saving investments (including an LED lighting switchover and replacing several HVAC units).

“Hassan and the staff invested many hours into making the museum an educational resource. Once we started to show the community the museum’s full potential as a cultural leader, our donors took notice and invested in the great things we were doing,” added Griffin.

The Museum Center tripled its school attendance last year, and continues to attract visitors from the region and all 50 states. “That’s the kind of momentum we want to sustain,” says Najjar.

The Museum Center hopes to keep this pace and provide experiences for learners of all ages.

However, Najjar cautions the community not to let up on support. “Often, when an organization does well, the assumption is that we aren’t in need. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

“There is still much to be done to repair our aging building, care for the collections, and attract top-notch exhibits,” the outgoing director continued. “The Museum Center will always need support from the community, and we will continue to show our supporters how their investment is used to tell the story of the Ocoee Region.”

Najjar emphasized one doesn’t need deep pockets to be a supporter.

Membership starts at $35 a year.

“We do a great deal for our members, and there is always something going on at the museum,” Najjar said. He also recommended potential visitors check out www.museumcenter.org to see the Museum Center’s full slate of programming and exhibits.

Cleveland’s Museum Center is located at 200 Inman St., and houses exhibits and artifacts relating to the history of the Ocoee Region, which includes Bradley and Polk Counties, the Chattanooga region, and surrounding areas.

The museum features one permanent exhibit, The River of Time, which traces the history of Cleveland and Bradley County.

In addition, five to six changing exhibitions are held each year. The museum store has a gallery showcasing arts and crafts of the local area and of the South.

The facility is often used for private and community events.

The museum was first proposed in 1992. A committee was created on March 9, 1992, to study the feasibility of establishing a museum which would be “an organized and permanent nonprofit institution, essentially educational or aesthetic in purpose, with professional staff, which owns and utilizes tangible objects, cares for them and exhibits them to the public on some regular schedule.”

Its mission statement is “to preserve and interpret the history and culture of the Ocoee District of Southeast Tennessee by highlighting the adventures of its people.”

Construction began on the museum on May 28, 1998, and it opened to the public on Sept. 11, 1999.

The Museum Center was chosen as the 2011 recipient of the MainStreet Cleveland award.

The new mission statement of “telling the story of the Ocoee Region” was adopted on June 18, 2013.

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