Jim Leija

As of September 2019, Jim Leija will be the Director for Public Experience and Learning at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), and will be responsible for the strategic direction and oversight of how the public experiences the Museum, and learns in and from it.

Before UMMA, Leija served for 8 years on the senior management team of the University Musical Society (UMS) as director of education & community engagement providing the strategic direction for UMS’s community, University, and K-12/youth engagement and education programs, and leading the team that produces over 300 free or low-cost education events and a range of educational materials each season. Jim started at UMS in 2008 in the marketing department, and became UMS’s first social media manager before his promotion in 2011. During his tenure at UMS, Jim was instrumental in designing and implementing two major educational and performance residencies with the New York Philharmonic; he served as project director for UMS’s “Engaging Dance Audience” grants (through Dance/USA and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation); launched an arts-academic integration program with the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation); and co-curated UMS’s new theater series “No Safety Net” focused on current events and social issues.

In 2018, Jim was publicly elected to a second four-year term as a trustee of the Ann Arbor District Library where he currently serves as vice president. Additionally, he is a trustee of Dance/USA (the national service organization for professional dance) and recently concluded a two-year term as chair of the dance presenters council. Jim is an occasional filmmaker and performer, and took top prize in the 2014 University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design Alumni Exhibition. His non-fiction performance essay “dance or die” is published in the anthology “Queer and Catholic” (Routledge). Jim holds three degrees from the University of Michigan: a master of fine arts in art and design, bachelor of arts in sociology, and a bachelor of fine arts in musical theatre. As a queer Latinx person, Jim is inspired by the growing visibility of stories from people of color, queer people, transgender people, and women across film, television, online media, and live performance.

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