CEO Series: Telfair Museums CEO Lisa Grove

Lisa Love

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Although she’s only been at Telfair Museums since 2012, CEO/Director Lisa Grove is no stranger to the art world. Grove has spent the better part of ten years managing art museums from St. Louis to Savannah. Long before the Kansas City native made the St. Louis Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list, she was just a child who loved to draw.

“I always knew I wanted to be around art,” Grove says. “It wasn’t until I had an internship at the Smithsonian that I realized I could take my interest in art and make a career out of it. I knew both the art and business sides of my MBA.”

Her career in art begin in first grade when she won a blue ribbon – an accomplishment she credits to an elementary school teacher who encouraged her creative side. When it was time for her to set off for college, she decided Stanford University would get her where she wanted to go. She gradated with a BA in American Studies, but she wasn’t finished learning just yet. She was awarded The British Marshall Scholarship, and it sent her across the pond to study the History of Art in London. When she finished her MBA and returned to the states, she embarked on the path that eventually led her to the commanding post at Telfair Museums. 

Currently, Grove is in charge of Telfair Museums’ three properties: the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Owens-Thomas House and the Jepson Center for the Arts. She oversees more than 65 full-time employees. There are also hundreds of museum volunteers. 

“We’re all about creating wow experiences,” she says. “No matter what we do, we make sure the people enjoy their time here and walk away with that wow factor.”

The public will have many opportunities to be wowed by Telfair Museums in the upcoming months since the museum mounts nearly two dozen art exhibitions each year. The massive Whitfield Lovell: Deep River opened in August and runs through February 1st. September saw an opening of two additional shows, Port City and Savannah Collects, which focus on Savannah life. Telfair will mount Monet and American Impressionism in 2015. Telfair boasts regular workshops, tours, free family days, professional panels and art classes. They conducted educational outreach to more than 25,000 Savannah-area residents in 2013. Last year, the 34th Telfair Ball broke museum fundraising records thanks to several new community supporters such as SunTrust, Georgia Power, Delta Air Lines, Gulfstream and JCB. 

“We find that corporate leaders are proud to be investing in Telfair Museums,” Grove says. “We see ourselves as partners. It’s important to recognize how art contributes to quality of life and we think of ourselves as integral to the community.”

Apart from her role at Telfair, Grove says she tries to get out and about to enjoy Savannah life as often as she can. Usually that means being wherever her three children are, whether on a baseball field or at a community theatre. She likes living in pedestrian-friendly Savannah because “it feels like you’re walking around in a movie set”. Still, the thing she loves most about her job is the people. 

“I like the people that I meet,” she says. “My role is very public-facing, and I enjoy the aspect of being an ambassador for the museum. We have a great time here!” 

Now that Grove is living her childhood dream, things couldn’t be more picturesque – even if it was hanging on the wall of Telfair Museums itself.

For more information on the history, programs and events of Telfair Museums, please visit their website –