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Best Museum Curator Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 2005 - Barbara O'Keefe

Before there was the Coral Springs Museum of Art, there was the Schacknow Museum of Fine Art, an expensive vanity project for one of South Florida's most colorful characters. And when the deal between Max Schacknow and the City of Coral Springs went sour, the wreckage was salvaged by a person as low key as the millionaire is flamboyant. That person was the unassuming Barbara O'Keefe, nominally the Coral Springs Museum's executive director but also its curator. We're tempted to say she single-handedly turned the museum around, but she'd be the first to acknowledge that she hasn't done it alone. Still, her staff and budget are both minimal, and she struggles constantly to capture the attention of the region's media. And yet she perseveres, pursuing an ambitious agenda in an environment where others might be happy just to survive. The museum now has an artist-in-residence program that produces works for a small but growing permanent collection, and there's a sculpture garden with some of the best public art in the area. Never one to rest on her laurels, O'Keefe also recently installed a modest but impressive reference library in the museum, working with donations scoured from other facilities. Oh, did we mention that, year after year, she also puts together a handful of worthwhile exhibitions that showcase South Florida artists?

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