Islander Elsa Croonquist has been hired as the first executive director of the Vashon Heritage Museum.
Croonquist, a 20-year resident of Vashon, officially joined the Heritage Association on Aug. 1. An increase in museum visitors and the association’s plans for a capital campaign for the renovation of its permanent exhibit space helped drive the need to hire a director, according to a press release from the organization.
In a recent conversation, Croonquist said she felt compelled to apply for the position after seeing last year’s “Joy and Heartache” exhibit of the Japanese American experience on Vashon and the current exhibit, “In and Out, Being LGBTQ on Vashon Island.”
“When I saw that, I thought this is an organization I would like to be part of,” she said.
She added that she is impressed that the museum tells not the just the island’s history, which is very important, but also displays the island’s culture — what makes up the island today.
Looking ahead, she said she hopes to develop partnerships with many of the island’s nonprofits, such as Vashon Center for the Arts and Vashon Community Care. She noted that the island has many residents in their 90s and she wants to be sure their stories are captured. The island has many residents who were contributors to developments around the world, she added, and she wants to capture those stories, as well.
Over the past 30 years, Croonquist has held director positions with major Seattle area organizations in real estate development, entrepreneurial energy start-ups, higher education administration and foundation development, including The Seattle Colleges and the McKinstry Innovation Center.
Most recently she was consulting on privately developed grant programs. Her focus has been in market and program development and helping organizations to successfully manage transition through change while building organizational capacity.
Her professional background will benefit the Heritage Museum as she settles in, she said.
“I can bring all my organizational development and marketing experience — the two things the museum needs and wants right now,” she added. “We are doing so much and need to make sure we are getting it out there in a fresh new way so that we stay current with what the community needs.”
Brian Brenno, Heritage Association president, said the selection of Croonquist was unanimous.
“Her experience in working with boards and managing large cross-functional programs will help us to strengthen our programs, and continue our outreach in capital development and community partnerships,” he said.
Croonquist expressed enthusiasm for her new role.
“I’m honored and excited to be joining the Heritage Association at this time when we are experiencing such great opportunities for growth, and there is so much community support and interest in our local culture and heritage,” she said in the recent release. “I’m thrilled to support an organization with the vision to engage, educate and inspire.”
While raising her children on the island, she has felt fortunate to meet her neighbors and experience island culture and heritage through volunteering with the schools, working on festivals, and becoming a Vashon rowing supporter.