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Paul Baker Prindle steps down from Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum

Paul Baker Prindle abruptly stepped down from his position as director of the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum on April 4, citing concerns with university leadership.

“I’m not comfortable working with the [College of The Arts] dean who’s in the role right now,” Baker Prindle said of Royce W. Smith. “I don’t believe the dean is in a position to offer the kind of leadership I think the college needs.”

During his nearly five-year employment at Long Beach State, Baker Prindle oversaw the museum’s renovation and expansion with the help of a $10 million donation from artist Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld. Baker Prindle has now stepped up as the Gabriele Haberland director at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA).

Though he would not discuss specifics, Baker Prindle said he was “unhappy with the direction” of the College of Arts, largely because of the five different deans that have been appointed since 2019.

“I felt it would be best for him [Smith] to have the freedom to implement the vision he has for the college and for him to choose a museum director who could align with his priorities.” Baker Prindle said.

“I don’t really think the museum was a priority for him.”

In a statement to the Daily Forty-Niner, Smith said that the museum is a “vibrant and mission-critical part of the College of the Arts.”

“We very much appreciated Paul’s leadership of the Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum,” Smith wrote. “We look forward to initiating a search in the fall for our next museum director – someone who will actively embrace these special values and bring unique, collaborative vision to the Kleefeld.”

Baker Prindle is pleased with how much the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum has grown over the past few years, as well as how the staff came together following Kimberli Meyer’s firing in 2018.

He is especially proud of curating a photography exhibition by Clifford Prince King and “Drag Show,” which showcased the history of LGBTQ+ counterculture in New York City.

“I didn’t realize how important that content and those histories are to not just our LGBT students living today, but to all of our students,” Baker Prindle said.

He said he wanted to take up the opportunity to make a difference at the MMoCA in his hometown, where he worked 25 years beforehand at the gift shop. He was homeless and living out of his car at the time.

“They’ve [MMoCA staff] remained like family to me ever since and I think the museum really needs a skill set that I have to offer. It seemed like the right opportunity to help them out,” Baker Prindle said.

Baker Prindle will step into his new role on May 9, according to MMoCA. He hopes to help the museum recover from the pandemic, as well as fix ongoing staffing and funding issues.

An interim director of the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum has not been appointed, according to the museum’s public affairs and communications specialist Amanda Fruta.

“I just feel really grateful for the time I had [at CSULB] and it was a bittersweet departure. I would’ve liked to stay but I’m also really grateful for what’s on the horizon for me,” Baker Prindle said.

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