NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The director and CEO of the Newark Museum of Art is part of a rare class.

She is one of only a handful of African-Americans leading a major art museum, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Monday.

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Students listened closely as educators at the museum made the paintings come to life. It’s that curiosity, especially with the museum’s youngest patrons, that Linda Harrison is trying to foster.

Newark Museum of Art (Photo: CBS2)

“I hope that kids walk away from the Newark Museum of Art seeing themselves reflected not only in our art but also in our staff and how we communicate with them,” Harrison said.

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She had a much different experience as a child during her first visit to a museum in Chicago. She said she remembers distinctly feeling like she didn’t belong.

“I was just noticing there was only one type of person there and they happened to all be white,” Harrison said.

Which is why running a museum was an unlikely transition for her after years in corporate America. She came to Newark in 2018 from the San Francisco Museum of the African Diaspora.

“There are only five, literally five, African-Americans running major museums across the country,” Harrison said.

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The Newark Museum of Art has the 12th largest art collection in the country. Now, Harrison is charged with making sure you know how much it has to offer.

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Surveys showed many in the city were passing by the building on Washington Street, unclear about the artifacts inside that span from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome to more contemporary art.

So she expanded hours to accommodate more patrons. A name change indicating it’s an art museum followed, along with more programming with a historic and cultural focus that better reflects the diverse community.

She’s an African-American woman leading a 110-year-old institution, hoping to create space for everyone.

The Newark Museum of Art is open Wednesdays for school group tours, and to the public every Thursday through Sunday.

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