In 2009, Kevin Salatino arrived at Bowdoin from Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). As the new director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, he began transformning the place and has been hard at work since.
At LACMA, Salatino served as the head of the Department of Prints and Drawings. He previously served as the curator of Graphic Arts at the Getty Research Institute and taught at Middlebury. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and received his undergraduate degree from Columbia.
Salatino was attracted to the position at Bowdoin for its prestige and the opportunity it offered for career advancement.
"I was making a step up from being a curator and department head to actually being a director at a small, but very highly regarded museum," said Salatino.
While Salatino specialized in prints and drawings at LACMA, his many years of experience in the art world has led him to describe himself as a generalist. The search committee that hired Salatino identified his expansive knowledge base in the hiring process.
"It quickly became clear that he possessed the perfect mix of skills, experiences, and enthusiasm for our position," said Associate Professor of Art Stephen Perkinson. "He also came highly recommended for his personal skills—he's a very engaging person."
Fellow museum staff members engage with Salatino on a daily basis and are impressed with his energy.
"He is brilliant and overflowing with good ideas," wrote Curator Joachim Homann in an email to the Orient. "Working with him is a catch-up game."
Salatino prides himself on his close relationship with staff members and frequent meetings.
"We're a team so everyone has a lot of the same responsibilities," said Salatino. "I'm the type of person that will do whatever task is necessary. We all have separate kinds of expertise here and we really have to draw on that."
Salatino's trust in his team allows him to fulfill another one of his responsibilities: traveling to survey or acquire pieces for the museum's permanent collection.
"I travel a lot—I'm either visiting alumni, donors, potential donors, collectors, dealers or art fairs," said Salatino. "Traveling is a very important part of the job."
"He already has added many stunning pieces to the collection that are expanding the scope and ambition of the museum," wrote Homann. "He makes the museum shine."
The main responsibility of the museum staff is to work on programming, which includes all exhibitions, lecture, and events that are associated with the museum. The staff plans major programming three to five years in advance.
"I'm interested in doing the best possible programming that this institution can do that's on par with the best museums in the country," said Salatino. "Our core audience, which is mostly students, should always have access to the very highest quality material, no matter what it is."
For the past few months, the museum's programming plans have revolved around its upcoming exhibition, "Edward Hopper's Maine," which opens this summer.
"The show will have 85 to 90 pieces that will take up the entire first floor of the museum," said Salatino. "We're also putting together a catalogue with essays by Bowdoin's own Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow Diana Tuite, [critic] Vincent Katz and the actor Steve Martin, who owns Hopper's painting 'Captain Upton's House.'"
"This show is bigger than anything we've done before," added Salatino. "We don't have the manpower to do an exhibition like this frequently, but I'd like to try and do it on a regular basis."
The art museum's impressive reputation became clear to Salatino while putting together the Hopper show.
"Hopper is in huge demand, and it's staggeringly difficult to get loans—he's certainly one of the top 10 most popular artists in the world today," said Salatino. "We managed to get all but three of the loans we asked for."
Another one of Salatino's most innovative projects is FREEZE, an outdoor ice sculpture show currently planned for 2013 on the Quad.
"Internationally-known contemporary art stars have agreed to participate and have already come up with some terrific ideas," said Salatino. "It's a big production to put on, and we would absolutely ask for student assistance."
Some of Salatino's other future plans include instituting a series of contemporary art projects in the entrance pavilion and rotunda of the museum, and coming up with ways to use the proposed arts component of the College's parcel of land from Naval Air Station-Brunswick.
Salatino is also working to make up for the lack of non-Western programming at the museum. A Chinese bronze exhibit is planned for the fall, and Salatino hopes to also do a pre-Columbian installation.
After becoming director, Salatino created the Student Museum Advisory Committee, to consider student opinions in programming decisions.
"They meet every week and talk about ways the museum can be made more relevant to the student body," said Salatino. "I want students to think about the museum as a really comfortable and non-intimidating place. We want it to be welcoming—during exam week, we stay open until midnight so students can use it as a study space."
The museum's current exhibitions, "Objects of Devotion" and "The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb's Book of Genesis," are examples of Salatino's efforts to cater to students' interests. Museum visitors are first presented with the "The Bible Illuminated," a series of provocative comic strips about the Old Testament. "Object of Devotions" a collection of alabaster pieces that feature themes from the New Testament.
"I tried to mitigate any intimidation of the 'Objects of Devotion' show with 'The Bible Illuminated' exhibition," explained Salatino. "I wanted to create a dialogue between those two exhibitions to funnel students, from the comic strips to the alabaster works."
The "Objects of Devotion" show is notable for its academic counterpart: one of the classes taught by Perkinson, the art professor, curated an accompanying exhibition to the show. The museum routinely reaches out to professors in all departments to invite them, or their students to curate shows.
"We're looking forward to a range of ambitious projects that would involve the Museum, Bowdoin faculty, and students in the curatorial process and would lead to traveling exhibitions and catalogues containing the work of all involved," said Perkinson.
Outside of the museum, Salatino said his favorite part of Bowdoin is the fitness center. His familiarity with the College allows him to tailor the museum to fit seamlessly with the Bowdoin brand.
"The advantage of a museum like Bowdoin's is that it strives to be encyclopedic," said Salatino. "Our enlightenment model is to encompass all worlds in one place, which is not unlike what the College attempts to do with its curriculum."
"The museum tries to mirror what the College itself is doing," he said.