The Aspen Institute Names James Merle Thomas as the Inaugural Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies

July 15, 2021

The Center, which is under construction in Aspen, CO, will exhibit and explore the work of the renowned Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute


Aspen, CO, July 15, 2021–The Aspen Institute announced today that James Merle Thomas, PhD, has been appointed as the first Lynda Resnick Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies in Aspen, Colorado. Thomas will oversee all aspects of the Center’s operations, taking responsibility for its strategic vision, collection development, exhibition planning, outreach and educational programming, fundraising, marketing, and financial management. He will take up the position full-time in fall 2021. The Bayer Center, which will research and exhibit the legacy and expanded contexts of Bauhaus artist and designer Herbert Bayer through exhibitions and public programming, will formally open in Summer 2022 on the grounds of the Aspen Meadows campus Bayer originally designed.

A prolific scholar and curator, Thomas brings over fifteen years of academic and creative arts leadership to the Aspen Institute. He is currently a professor of Art History at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University. Through his teaching and public engagement, he has advanced a global and inclusive vision for art while supporting initiatives focused on equity and education in Philadelphia and elsewhere. As a curator and historian of modern and contemporary art, Thomas has collaborated extensively for nearly two decades with museums, universities, and cultural institutions worldwide to create biennials, publications, and programming focused on global contemporary art and culture. His projects and research are supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. State Department, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

As a recognized scholar and theorist of the art of the Cold War, Thomas also brings to the Aspen Institute extensive knowledge of Bayer, the Bauhaus, and the broader contexts of German and American Art of the twentieth century. He holds a doctorate in Art History from Stanford University, where his dissertation and subsequent scholarship examined the intersections of art, design, technology, and politics of the 1960s and 1970s; he has written extensively on, among other topics, the history of the 1971 Aspen Design Conference, the work of Bayer colleague and fellow Bauhaus émigré László Moholy-Nagy, and the role of graphic design and pedagogy from the Bauhaus to the contemporary.

“Herbert Bayer left the Aspen Institute a remarkable legacy, creating artwork and designing our Aspen Meadows campus, which continues to draw thousands of visitors to our founding home in Aspen each year,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “The Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies will provide a dedicated space for the Institute to exhibit his work and explore the creative philosophy which underpins it. Jim will oversee all aspects of the Center, which will be deeply connected to the Aspen community with free access and programming for all. He will become an active partner to both the Institute’s programs and the Roaring Fork Valley region’s dynamic arts and education communities, and translate Bayer’s interdisciplinary vision into an inclusive contemporary program that extends beyond our campus and into the wider world.” 

“The Aspen Institute is one of the most innovative agents of thought and change of our time and I am honored to be chosen to lead this bold initiative,” Thomas said. “Aspen’s leadership and staff have recognized Bayer’s legacy and his impact is felt everywhere across the campus and the region. Building a center to commemorate and translate this history into the contemporary is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“I want to express my gratitude to the search committee and to the Board of Trustees for putting their faith in me, and to Lynda Resnick for recognizing and advancing Herbert Bayer’s vision,” Thomas said. “Bayer’s perspective was truly interdisciplinary—his work unfolded at the nexus of art, design, architecture, and humanitarian thinking. Just as this vision was important to his own time and to the Aspen Institute’s origins, the Center will extend this story into the present. I am excited to build upon the institution’s interdisciplinary perspectives, get to know and partner with the diverse communities and institutions throughout Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, and work with the talented team of the Aspen Institute as we reaffirm the importance of an inclusive and equitable vision for the arts as a vital part of our society.”

Thomas was appointed by the Aspen Institute’s Art Collection and Exhibitions Committee led by Lynda Resnick. Through an international search process and with the support of the Aspen Institute’s executive leadership team, the committee identified the need for a director who will open and lead the museum, become an active partner with both the institute’s programs and the Aspen region’s dynamic art community, and translate Bayer’s interdisciplinary vision into an inclusive contemporary program that extends into the Aspen community and beyond. 

“The design, development and Implementation of the Aspen Institute campus is Bayer’s masterpiece,” said Lynda Resnick, vice chair and co-owner of The Wonderful Company. “It is only fitting that this new center honoring his legacy will welcome the community and the world to the genius of this man.” 

The Aspen Institute originally announced the Bayer Center in 2019, the year of the Bauhaus Centennial, when it was made possible through a $10 million gift from Lynda and Stewart Resnick. A second gift was made by the Resnicks in 2021 to establish the Executive Director position. Construction on the Bayer Center, which is designed by Jeffrey Berkus Architects and Rowland+Broughton Architecture, is well underway with a limited opening planned in December 2021 and a full opening in Summer 2022. The building and its collection will be freely accessible to the general public and visitors to the Aspen Meadows Resort. The first exhibit will be curated by Bernard Jazzar, curator of the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Collection in Los Angeles.

The Bayer Center is the largest in a series of recent commitments from the Aspen Institute to preserve and examine the work of Herbert Bayer, who was largely responsible for designing the Institute campus from the 1950s-70s. During the 2019 Bauhaus centennial anniversary, the Institute organized Bauhaus: The Making of Modern, three days of programming which explored the modernist art school and how it has come to define modernism today. The Bayer Center shares a courtyard with the newly renovated Boettcher Seminar Building, the last building on the campus designed by Herbert Bayer. Work is also currently underway to restore Bayer’s Marble Garden sculpture to its original condition while another sculpture, Anaconda, was relocated to the campus in 2018.


The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

View Comments