South­west serendip­ity

Pasatiempo - - Book Reviews -

For the lo­cal arts scene, the new year finds new lead­er­ship at three Santa Fe mu­se­ums. Robert Kret as­sumed his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as di­rec­tor of the Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe Mu­seum at the end of Oc­to­ber, re­plac­ing Ge­orge King, and Donna Pedace was re­cently se­lected to head the Span­ish Colo­nial Arts So­ci­ety, which over­sees the Mu­seum of Span­ish Colo­nial Arts. She suc­ceed­sWil­liam Field in that po­si­tion.

Sched­uled next week to take on her du­ties as di­rec­tor of the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art is Mary J. Ker­shaw, who fills the po­si­tion va­cated in Fe­bru­ary by Mar­sha Bol when Bol was given the nod to run the Mu­seum of In­ter­na­tional Folk Art.

And just to add to the shuf­fle, Tim Rodgers has re­signed as chief cu­ra­tor for the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art to be­come the new di­rec­tor of the Scotts­dale Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art (as well as the vice pres­i­dent of the Scotts­dale Cul­tural Coun­cil).

Ker­shaw comes to Santa Fe from Eng­land, where she was the di­rec­tor of col­lec­tions for the York Mu­se­ums Trust, which con­sists of four pub­lic venues, in­clud­ing the York Art Gallery and York St. Mary’s. Be­fore that, she was head of mu­se­ums for the Har­ro­gate Bor­ough Coun­cil. Ed­u­cated at Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Lon­don, where she ob­tained a mas­ter’s de­gree in me­dieval ar­chae­ol­ogy, Ker­shaw also holds a de­gree in English lit­er­a­ture from the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia in Philadel­phia, where she was born and raised. From her of­fice in York, Ker­shaw re­sponded to ques­tions. Pasatiempo: What prompted you to con­sider New Mex­ico for a job change? Mary J. Ker­shaw: When I first vis­ited Santa Fe [in 2007, for a con­fer­ence], I was struck by what a de­light­ful and ex­traor­di­nary place it is, as well as by the nat­u­ral beauty of New Mex­ico. ... The col­lec­tions in the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art were very ex­cit­ing— cul­tur­ally so dif­fer­ent and seem­ing to be so deeply rooted in the spe­cial cul­ture of the place. The fu­sion of cul­tures here seems to in­spire lively, ex­pres­sive works that are truly en­gag­ing. Mov­ing from the north of Eng­land, I would have to say that the lovely weather is also a great in­cen­tive. Pasa: Were you ready for a change? Ker­shaw: It was serendip­ity. I was looking at the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Mu­se­um­sWeb site, and out of cu­rios­ity I thought I’d have a look at the jobs. I saw the po­si­tion for the di­rec­tor of the NMMA and ex­plored a bit fur­ther. ... With York, I had achieved what I set out to do, and it was time for a new ad­ven­ture. Pasa: Once you re­ceived your mas­ter’s de­gree in Lon­don, you de­cided to stay in Eng­land. Was there an of­fer you couldn’t refuse? Ker­shaw: Oh, my fate was sealed long be­fore I did my mas­ter’s! I had trav­eled to Eng­land as an un­der­grad­u­ate as part of a small pi­lot group who were help­ing to set up an ex­change pro­gram be­tween the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia and King’s Col­lege Lon­don. Within a week of arriving in Eng­land, I met the English­man to whom I am now mar­ried. This opened up the op­por­tu­nity to live and work in Eng­land, so I de­cided to take it. Pasa: Com­pared with your cur­rent po­si­tion at York, it seems as though the NMMA will be a down­sized ver­sion of your present sit­u­a­tion. Ker­shaw: In York, I’ve got a broad re­mit across col­lec­tions and cu­ra­tors, and I have re­ally en­joyed that. It has en­abled me to make con­nec­tions across dis­ci­plines that are un­ex­pected and en­gag­ing and to reach out to new audiences in fun and sur­pris­ing ways. ... I am now looking to take the wider ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had at York [and] to take the lead at a mu­seum that is looking to de­velop and en­gage with new audiences,

based around ex­cel­lent col­lec­tions that have the power to cap­ture peo­ple’s imagination. Pasa: A field in which you have some ex­per­tise is me­dieval ar­chae­ol­ogy. What do you plan to do with that in the Amer­i­can South­west? Ker­shaw: Work­ing as an ar­chae­ol­o­gist in­volves un­der­stand­ing how peo­ple shape and are shaped by their land­scape. The con­nec­tion with the land­scape seems to me to be a fun­da­men­tal as­pect of South­west­ern art that con­tin­ues to this day. Ar­chae­ol­ogy also in­volves a cu­rios­ity about dif­fer­ent ways of life and an un­der­stand­ing of the ma­te­rial cul­ture and artis­tic ex­pres­sion of so­ci­ety. Aside from this, my role for the past decade or so has been more about lead­er­ship, man­age­ment, and de­vel­op­ment in mu­se­ums across a wide range of dis­ci­plines, rather than an op­por­tu­nity to work specif­i­cally in me­dieval ar­chae­ol­ogy. I will cer­tainly en­joy ex­plor­ing the mar­velous ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites and mu­se­ums in New Mex­ico and looking at what op­por­tu­ni­ties there may be for bring­ing art and ar­chae­ol­ogy to­gether. Pasa: What do you fore­see as your big­gest chal­lenge com­ing to the mu­seum? Ker­shaw: I think the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing ev­ery mu­seum in the United States and the United King­dom at the mo­ment is the same: the cur­rent eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion.

Other than that, what I would like to do is to en­sure that the mu­seum is at the heart of the com­mu­nity; to make sure that New Mex­i­cans con­sider it their mu­seum and are touched by its col­lec­tions and mis­sions in pos­i­tive ways; that the mu­seum works with the many prac­tic­ing artists who live and work in New Mex­ico and that those artists feel a sense of com­mu­nity with the mu­seum; that the mu­seum is a full part­ner in the artis­tic land­scape of Santa Fe, work­ing with the com­mer­cial gal­leries to our mu­tual ben­e­fit. ... I’m not say­ing that th­ese things are miss­ing at present, sim­ply that it is im­por­tant for the mu­seum to be a key player in the cul­tural and artis­tic land­scape of Santa Fe and New Mex­ico.

Step on in: New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art

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