Joseph Thompson is the founding director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), having guided the museum’s development and arts programming since its inception in 1987. Opening with 200,000 square feet of renovated space in 1999, the arts complex has grown to over 550,000 square feet of galleries, stages, workshops, and tenant space.
A 1981 graduate of Williams College, Thompson received an MA in Art History from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an Annenberg Fellow, and holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, where he was named a Morgenthau Fellow for his work in public policy and management.
Thompson has organized many exhibitions and performing arts events at MASS MoCA, including the first solo exhibition of the visual art of David Byrne; the Clocktower Project, a permanent sound art installation by Christina Kubisch; Robert Wilson’s 14 Stations; Tim Hawkinson’s Überorgan; Ann Hamilton’s corpus; Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune; and, most recently, Xu Bing: Phoenix. Thompson is a co-organizer of the annual Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA; with the rock band, Wilco, he co-produces the Solid Sound Festival, whichtakes place at MASS MoCA every other summer; and he helped conceive and organizeFreshGrass, an annual festival of American roots and new bluegrass music at MASS MoCA.
Thompson has been awarded the Commonwealth Award (the highest award granted to private citizens by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) and the Williams College Bicentennial Medal for outstanding achievement by a Williams College alumnus. He is on the Board of Directors of MountainOne Bank and Berkshire Health Systems.