WHY SHE'S A TOP 40: Since volunteering for the Winnipeg Art Gallery in her early 20s, she has risen steadily through the ranks of Canada's cultural institutions. She is now at the helm of Alberta's museum sector, ensuring the province's museums remain sustainable, relevant and accessible.
KEY TO HER SUCCESS: She followed her first love, museums, through childhood and adolescence, until she was old enough to turn her obsession into a career.
In 2005, Alexandra Hatcher found herself at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles, sitting at a table with a director from the Smithsonian Institution and other high-ranking museum professionals from around the world. At the time, she was director of the Musée Héritage Museum in St. Albert, managing four staffers and an annual budget of less than $400,000. She was the youngest person in the room and just one of two Canadians selected for the centre's prestigious Leadership Institute, a three-week course for up-and-coming museum leaders.
"I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I have just as much to contribute [to the conversation] as the other people around the table,'" says Hatcher, who studied art history at the University of Winnipeg and graduated from Grant MacEwan's cultural administration program in 1999. "I've always considered myself a leader — that was already there. But that experience pushed me and challenged me to look at what I could contribute to the sector."
Four years later, Hatcher was offered the role of executive director and CEO of the Alberta Museums Association, a non-profit society offering support to 250 institutions and galleries that preserve cultural history.
Hatcher manages a $2.5-million budget. She packs a tight schedule, meeting regularly with her nine employees about core grant programs and development courses for professionals, and then getting in a car and driving to galleries all over the province to advise staff and volunteers.
In between that, she oversees a quarterly newsletter, an annual journal and the association's social media, making sure there's never a blip in communications.
In her new role, she moved the headquarters of the Alberta Museums Association from Rossdale to 124th Street, placing it among several galleries and within walking distance of the Royal Alberta Museum. The new location helps with networking, which is a non-stop process for Hatcher. Since she joined the association last year, it has collaborated with the Calgary Arts Development Authority and Getty Leadership Institute, the same program that helped get her where she is today.
Hatcher says there are many challenges ahead for the association's member facilities, especially those in rural areas struggling with staffing and financing. But the most important issue facing brick-and-mortar museums is the pressure to have a strong online gallery presence while simultaneously drawing visitors in person. Hatcher hopes she can advise museums on using the digital realm to supplement and not replace historical and cultural exhibits.
"It's all about the real object and the real story," she says. "You can be online and have a virtual experience, but unless you can see the object in person, I think there's a disconnect."