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January 31st, 2006
Fleisher Executive Director Thora Jacobson Resigns to Pursue New Role with Philagrafika

The Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial announced today that effective February 25, 2006, Executive Director Thora Jacobson, who has served Fleisher for 33 years, will step down to take on a new personal and professional challenge as Chief Operating Officer of Philagrafika, an international festival that will be inaugurated in 2010 under the auspices of the Philadelphia Print Collaborative. Philagrafika will celebrate the impact of the printed image in shaping contemporary global visual culture. The Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial is best known as the country’s oldest and largest free and low-tuition visual arts program for adults and children. Founded as the Graphic Sketch Club in 1898, Fleisher has been a vital educational resource that includes instruction in the visual arts, exhibitions, concerts, and interpretation of its historic buildings and works of art installed therein. Fleisher Art Memorial has been administered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art since the death of Samuel Fleisher in 1945.

"It is difficult to leave an organization into which I have invested heart and soul over the years," commented Jacobson, "but I have made this decision fully confident that Fleisher is a better organization for my service and the shared commitment of our staff and Board. Our audiences are larger and more varied today, and they are participating in an increasingly rich array of program offerings. Our donor base has grown, from individual and institutional sources, so that Fleisher now successfully manages a budget that has increased tenfold since I started and is on stronger financial footing. At the completion of the second phase of our capital campaign, our studio and gallery space have expanded with a growing campus, and we have the exciting prospect of a major public art project in Mei-Ling Hom's Cloud Path." Fleisher is brighter, better equipped and more accessible than ever."

“We are very saddened by Thora’s departure after an extraordinary tenure of more than three decades,” said James A. Lebovitz, President of Fleisher. “Thora has been a driving force for growth and she has set many milestones, from introducing the highly respected Challenge exhibitions to spearheading our current capital campaign with great success. Without her imaginative leadership, Fleisher would not hold the important place it does today. Her contributions have been immeasurable. We offer our congratulations to Philagrafika and understand the fresh challenge and new opportunity that its upcoming print festival will present for Thora.”

Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which administers the Fleisher Art Memorial, added: “Thora Jacobson as been a terrific colleague, and her impact has been enormous on Fleisher and the vibrant cultural community of Philadelphia. This unique institution has grown and flourished under her guidance, and the impressive capital campaign has resulted in expanded programs and much needed improvements to its facilities. While Fleisher’s many friends and admirers will sorely miss her, we are delighted that the new opportunity presented by Philagrafika will keep her here in the city of which she is so much a part, and we look forward with great anticipation to her future success.”

Fleisher will launch a search for Jacobson’s successor who will build on her accomplishments and propel the unique institution forward into the new century, ensuring that Fleisher’s exceptional art instruction and adventurous exhibition programs will offer an ever-growing public service for the community, the city, and the region.

Administrator, educator, and curator, Thora Jacobson joined the Fleisher staff in 1972 after serving as Student Center Coordinator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She has been Fleisher’s director since 1983. In 1978, she inaugurated the Challenge Exhibitions, which have grown to become a highly respected series, presenting the work of emerging and unaffiliated artists. In 1982, she worked with the Fairmount Park Art Association to oversee the creation by artist Siah Armajani of the Louis Kahn Lecture Room, dedicated to the Philadelphia-born architect who drew his early inspiration as an artist while taking classes at Fleisher. Under her direction, in 2001, Fleisher opened The Center for Works on Paper at 705 Christian Street with new gallery and studio space and expanded programming. Three years later, a series of improvements was initiated in the main building nearby at 719 Catharine Street, which now benefits from a new lobby, reception area, and elevator system.

Jacobson noted Fleisher’s increasing role in the city and the growth of its community partnerships, adding: “Fleisher provides an extraordinary vehicle for building personal and institutional relationships using the power of art as the connection.” In this way, she began building a productive relationship with the Philadelphia Print Collaborative, the organization behind Philagrafika, since its founding five years ago.

Teresa Jaynes, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Print Collaborative, said: “Thora’s vision and resourcefulness will be key in fulfilling Philagrafika’s mission to present a broad interdisciplinary approach to printmaking from a global perspective. Artists are using more elaborate ways of utilizing different mediums. Philagrafika will explore its impact on the content of artists work and the new language that is developing as a result. We are excited that Thora will bring her excellent communication skills to this collaborative process between multiple Philagrafika venues. Our inaugural festival in 2010 is the first of a series, and we are thrilled to have the participation of Fleisher, as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, the Fabric Workshop and Museum, The Print Center, and Brandywine Workshop.”

Judith K. Brodsky, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Department of Visual Arts, Rutgers University and Founding Director, Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper and Board President of the Philadelphia Print Collaborative said, "To have Thora Jacobson as Chief Operating Officer will mean so much to the success of Philagrafika in 2010. Thora's experience in fulfilling and expanding Fleisher’s mission, her wide spread of contacts, and her proven management capabilities have given her the experience to meet the demands of a citywide international festival intended to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors.”

Jacobson, in looking ahead to her new responsibilities, added: “I am enthusiastic about the substance and spirit of Philagrafika, what it will mean to artists, arts organizations and the larger cultural community. And we fully expect it to become a clear economic benefit to the city and region, bringing visitors from across Pennsylvania and around the world to stay long enough to visit the multiple sites of the festival. Philagrafika represents the kind of synergy that bodes well for the Philadelphia region from macro to micro.”

The Programs of the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial are supported in part by the Samuel S. Fleisher Trust, grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Independence Foundation, The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the Philadelphia Cultural Leadership Program funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, The Philadelphia Foundation, the William Penn Foundation, and donations from more than 2000 student members and friends.

The Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial is located at 719 Catharine Street. For visitor information call 215-922-3456, or visit the website at

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