Leading roles

2 acclaimed San Antonio arts organizations usher in new leaders

2 acclaimed San Antonio arts organizations usher in new leaders

J. Robert “Jimmy” Moore and Emily Ballew Neff
J. Robert “Jimmy” Moore and Emily Ballew Neff join The Classic Theatre and SAMA, respectively. Courtesy photos

New leaders have been tapped for two beloved local arts institutions: the San Antonio Museum of Art and The Classic Theatre of San Antonio.

Professional stage actor and director J. Robert “Jimmy” Moore has returned to his hometown to join The Classic Theatre of San Antonio as the nonprofit’s new executive and artistic director.

Elsewhere, the board of trustees of the much-loved San Antonio Museum of Art has appointed Emily Ballew Neff as the museum’s new director, following an international search.

According to Randy Stier, Classic Theatre’s board chair, Moore brings leadership, directing, and acting experience from theaters across the nation to his new position.

He “has tremendous zeal, drive, and determination, and a deep commitment to reaching out to our city’s varied communities,” Stier says in a statement. “Under [Moore’s] leadership, we eagerly anticipate San Antonians enjoying the shared experience of relevant, diverse, entertaining, and transformative performances at The Classic Theatre of San Antonio for years to come.”

According to a release, Moore is a Marshall High School graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in production and performance, and a master’s degree in directing from Texas State University. Additionally, he studied with the acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in England.

Since such impressive engagements, Moore worked in New York, off-Broadway, at Madison Square Garden, and with regional theaters across the country.

Moore says he looks forward to immersing himself in San Antonio’s arts community, noting its vibrancy and that it’s full of possibilities.

“I want to continue to build on The Classic Theatre’s reputation for quality and professionalism in our city,” Moore says. “For me, a huge part of that is creating a home for our theater artists where they feel fulfilled and respected. … I am excited to work with our city’s storytellers to find innovative and compelling ways for audiences to experience their favorite shows while also exploring creative additions to the classical canon.”

At the San Antonio Museum of Art, Ballew Neff brings to her new role as director much experience, including previously working as executive director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Tennessee.

According to a release, she spearheaded the effort to relocate the museum to downtown Memphis to enhance its role within the city’s civic and cultural core.

Ballew Neff also previously served as director and chief curator at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, and as founding curator of American painting and sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Ballew Neff begins her new role at SAMA on January 18.

Museum board chair Ed Hart says, as a native Texan, Ballew Neff possesses an understanding of the region and maintains a range of relationships that will help to support SAMA’s vision and work.

“Over the course of her career, [Ballew Neff] has proven to be an exceptional leader with a strong commitment to community, a skilled fundraiser, and a thoughtful curator who brings to the fore important stories about people, cultures, and places,” Hart says.

“As San Antonio continues to develop as a vibrant cultural hub,” he continues, “she is exactly the person we need to lead the institution into its next chapter as an engaging civic institution that embraces and reflects its many audiences.”

Ballew Neff began her career at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in 1989 as a curatorial assistant. She rose through the ranks to become the first head of the museum’s department of American painting and sculpture, a position she held from 1997 to 2013.

Ballew Neff notes SAMA has grown in the past 40 years into an institution recognized for an expansive encyclopedic collection, a history of scholarship and innovative presentations, and a commitment to the community.

“I am so looking forward to the opportunity to work with the museum’s team and board to further enhance its leadership role within the city of San Antonio and the nation’s broader arts and culture landscape,” Ballew Neff says. “I am also excited to return to Texas as part of San Antonio’s fast-growing community, and to continue to expand the museum’s collaborations, collections, exhibitions, and programs in new and compelling directions.”