Moore Honors Nancy Kolb and Billy Tsien with 2009 Visionary Woman Awards

For Immediate Release
October 19, 2009

(Philadelphia, PA) Moore College of Art & Design presented its 2009 Visionary Woman Awards to museum administrator Nancy Kolb, president and CEO of the Please Touch Museum and architect and designer Billie Tsien, a partner in the firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, architects of the new Barnes Foundation on The Ben Franklin Parkway. Kolb and Tsien accepted the Visionary Woman Award at a gala at the College on October 7, 2009. The gala, attended by 275 guests, raised $270,000, with proceeds going to support the Visionary Woman Scholarships.

“This year we were delighted to be able to honor two exceptional women each of whom, in their own way, will leave an enduring mark on Philadelphia,” said Moore President Dr. Happy Craven Fernandez. “Each has made invaluable contributions to the design and transformation of museum spaces that captivate the public eye and invite museum goers to take a step beyond the typical museum experience.”

Since 2003, the Visionary Woman Awards has become a widely recognized event that honors women whose work and leadership have had a powerful influence on the visual arts. Both of this year’s honorees have played a significant role in working with cultural institutions in transition and envisioning the transformation of space for major museums.

The Visionary Woman Award gala celebration honoring Tsien and Kolb took place October 7 at the College, located at 20th Street and The Parkway. Proceeds from the gala go to support the Visionary Woman Scholarship Fund. The Elizabeth Greenfield Zeidman Lecture featuring Kolb and Tsien was held earlier that day in the Stewart Auditorium. The lecture was free and open to the public.


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Moore College of Art & Design educates students for inspiring careers in art and design. Founded in 1848, Moore is the nation's first and only women's art college. Moore's career-focused environment and professionally active faculty form a dynamic community in the heart of Philadelphia's cultural district. The College offers nine Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees for women. A coeducational Graduate Studies program was launched in summer, 2009. In addition, Moore provides many valuable opportunities in the arts through The Galleries at Moore, a Continuing Education Certificate program for adults, the 91-year-old acclaimed Youth Art Program for girls and boys grades 1-12, The Art Shop and the Sculpture Park. For more information about Moore, visit www.moore.edu.

Associated Event:
Inside the Architect’s Studio: The Process of Making Museums, an exhibition honoring the work of the honorees, will be on view in The Galleries at Moore October 7 to December 9, 2009. The Galleries at Moore are free and open to the public.

Brief Bios of Awardees

Nancy Kolb brought new life and energy to a section of Fairmount Park through a multi-year endeavor to restore historic Memorial Hall into the new Please Touch Museum, which opened in 2008 and is the only children’s museum in the region. Since the move, the new Please Touch Museum has almost tripled the number of visitors. 

Kolb worked closely with the architectural firm of Kise, Straw & Kolodner, who developed the plans for the restoration and new construction at Memorial Hall, one of America's first examples of Beaux-Arts architecture originally built for the 1876 Centennial Exposition. Over the last two decades, she has worked tirelessly to expand the scope and mission of the Museum, inspiring support from across the community to literally and figuratively put the institution “on the map.”

Before joining the Please Touch Museum, Kolb served as assistant executive director for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and on the board of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. She received her undergraduate degree in history and biology from Bucknell University and is a graduate of the Getty Museum Management Institute.

Billie Tsien, an internationally recognized architect with Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, is poised to create a transformative milestone in the cultural life of Philadelphia since her firm was selected to design the new building for the Barnes Foundation. The art education center will house the Barnes Foundation's preeminent collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early modern paintings.

Previous museum projects by the firm include The American Folk Art Museum in New York City, the first new museum to be built in New York in more than thirty years.  In 2002 the museum received the Arup World Architecture award for Best Building in the World. Other museum projects by Tsien include two major additions to the Phoenix Art Museum and the Mattin Arts Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Locally, Tsien’s firm designed Skirkanich Hall, a new bioengineering building at the University of Pennsylvania that was hailed by local architecture critic Inga Saffron as “Philadelphia’s best building in years.” The President of UPenn dubbed it “The Miracle on 33rd Street.” While most of the buildings on Penn’s campus are steel construction with red-brick cladding, Skirkanich is a concrete building with a shingled glass and aluminum curtain wall, zinc panels and glazed green brick.

Tsien and Williams have designed major projects that have won National AIA Honor Awards, including the natatorium at the Cranbrook School and the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, CA. Their design for the American Folk Art Museum received the Arup World Architecture award for Best Building in the World in 2002. Tsien received her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Yale in 1971 and her Master in Architecture from UCLA in 1977. She has taught at Parsons School of Design, Yale University, Harvard Graduate School of Design, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Pennsylvania. She shares with Tod Williams the Louis I. Kahn Chair at Yale.

October 19, 2009
Moore College of Art & Design presented its 2009 Visionary Woman Awards to museum administrator Nancy Kolb, president and CEO of the Please Touch Museum and architect and designer Billie Tsien, a partner in the firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, architects of the new Barnes Foundation on The Ben Franklin Parkway. Kolb and Tsien accepted the Visionary Woman Award at a gala at the College on October 7, 2009.

Published on October 19th, 2009