About the Director
John Olbrantz is currently the Maribeth Collins Director of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. A native of Washington, he holds a BA degree from Western Washington University and an MA degree from the University of Washington in the history of art, and a Study Certificate from the University of California, Berkeley in arts administration and management. In addition, he did further graduate study at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A specialist in ancient and American art, he is particularly interested in Roman art, the history of archaeology, contemporary American art, and the history of museums.
Throughout his professional career, John has held various non-profit management positions in Washington, California, and Oregon. From 1976-1985, he was director of the Bellevue Art Museum in Washington, and from 1985-1987, director of the San Jose Museum of Art in California. In 1987, he returned to his home town of Bellingham, Washington where he served as deputy director of the Whatcom Museum of History and Art for 11 years. In addition, he has served as an adjunct lecturer at both Western Washington University and Willamette University.
Over the years, John has been involved in several major capital fund drives for expansion and renovation, has organized over 100 temporary exhibitions of historical and contemporary art, has served as a grant reviewer on a local, regional, and national level, and has maintained an active membership in the American Association of Museums and the Archaeological Institute of America. In addition, he has juried over 40 art competitions on the West Coast, has lectured on a wide variety of art topics around the country, and has published in the fields of ancient and contemporary art.
From 1990-1994, John served on the Board of Directors of the Western Museums Association and from 1991-1998, was appointed to the Washington State Arts Commission, where he served on the Policy and Planning Committee and chaired the Visual Arts Committee. Most recently, he was appointed to the Salem Public Art Commission to serve a three-year term, where he is helping to write guidelines related to the City of Salem’s Percent for Art ordinance.
John is the recipient of a Mayor’s Art Award from the City of Bellingham and was voted Newsmaker of the Year by the Bellingham Herald in 1989 for A Different War, an exhibition he co-organized with Lucy Lippard that examined the impact of the Vietnam War on contemporary American art. In 2011, he was selected as the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for the College of Fine and Performing Arts at Western Washington University in Bellingham.
John and his wife Pamela have two grown children, Aaron and Sarah, and live in Salem.