While the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) is well-known for its extensive and unique collections, much of the space’s success and innovation is due to its employees. Anne and Frank Goodyear, co-directors of the BCMA since 2014, have played a significant role in facilitating the museum’s growth and creative aspirations.
Frank and Anne Goodyear, after leaving curatorial jobs at the Smithsonian Institute in the District of Columbia, traveled to Bowdoin with a strategic five-year plan to introduce more experimentation and dynamism into the museum’s offerings and exhibitions while creating avenues for students and staff to engage with the collection.
To this end, the duo is preparing a new fiscal plan which will launch in July of 2019.
“We’re looking very assiduously at how core activities that define the museum align with some of the major goals of the College at large,” Anne said. “[These include] fostering innovative teaching and learning, being part of an institution and dedicating ourselves to developing an inclusive community that values access for everyone and prizes the extraordinary diversity of the student body.”
One of the new initiatives will allow for the public to take full advantage of the museum’s resources through online editions of its physical collections and exhibitions. In 2014, Assistant Professor of Art History Dana Byrd coordinated a digital exhibition with the museum entitled “Fifty Years Later.” This digital exhibition, which reexamined the 1964 exhibition in the Bowdoin Museum called “The Portrayal of the Negro in American Painting,” serves as a model for the type of exhibit the initiative seeks to promote.
The 1964 exhibition ran longer than it was slated and attracted many notable visitors, including Martin Luther King Jr., in 1964. Byrd’s exhibition was noteworthy in that it brought to light this transformative aspect of the museum, as well as marked a new type of collaboration.
“This electronic exhibition which, was actually done during the first full year of our tenure, was a collaboration between the art history department, digital and computational studies, and the museum,” Anne said.
A program was scheduled for Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. day, in which the community would have a space to gather and discuss the exhibition that Dr. King saw, Byrd’s 2014 exhibition and the implications this art has on society in the past, present and future. While the program had to be rescheduled due to weather, it will likely take place next month.
“It really fits in with a larger set of priorities that Frank and I have for the museum which is to really understand the museum as a place where collaboration across campus can flourish,” Anne said. Part of the exciting achievement of this exhibition was precisely that it gave us an opportunity to use a show that, now 55 years later, did something extremely innovative and springboard off of that to create a lasting resource.”
Since their arrival, the couple has also focused on how they can nurture creative and independent thinking among the student body and the community at large. For Anne, being in the Bowdoin museum provides her with an environment to do so.
“We have an opportunity to draw on historic resources, such as those that are highlighted in this exhibition, as well as on contemporary responses by creative artists,” Anne said.
When choosing exhibitions, the co-directors sit on a curatorial committee that reviews proposals from students, faculty, curators and the community beyond the campus to choose shows that will not only appeal to students and faculty and be a resource in learning and teaching, but also appeal to the wider public.
“The Museum is an education resource for the campus and for the community,” Frank said. “Anything that we can do to facilitate connections with the collections here is something that we’re aspiring to do.”