Last night, the new co-directors of the Bowdoin Museum of Art, Anne and Frank Goodyear, discussed their hopes for the future of the museum with a small group of students and faculty at MacMillan House.
The Goodyears each spoke briefly about their education and current occupations—both are curators at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. and teach at George Washington University (Anne also serves as president of the College Art Association)—and then opened up the floor to questions and input from the audience, which was mainly composed of art history students.
Anne said they were excited to hear the student’s insights and ideas regarding the role of the museum on campus.
“We want to understand what the museum means to the student body,” she said, addressing the group. “We are really excited to hear about your experiences with the museum, and your suggestions.”
Anne and Frank see the museum as a place for intellectual engagement across all disciplines.
“We want it to be more than just a little treasure box, we want it to be at the crossroads of conversations across the campus,” said Frank. “We want it to be an incubator of ideas and a place of dialogue.”
“What is very special about having a museum of [this] caliber on campus,” said Anne, “is that it should provide opportunities for student engagement. We’re interested in looking at it as a professional training ground.”
The response from students and faculty at the new appointment is widely favorable.
“I think they are fabulous,” said Professor of Film Studies Tricia Welsch. “It couldn’t be better, they’re people happy to be here.”
Stephen Roth ’13, a member of the Student Museum Advocacy Council (SMAC), asked Frank and Anne how they intended to improve the museum’s national standing, and both said that they are very interested in maintaining its recent upward trajectory.
“I can’t stress how important national visibility is for the museum,” said Anne. “We’re looking to develop some sort of strategic plan...getting a better sense of the strengths of the collection that we have and the areas we might grow.”
Frank went on to say that it is important for the museum to engage with all of the different communities it services.
“I think it goes back to a museum wanting to serve many different publics,” he said. “At the core, we have the student and faculty on campus, but I think it’s so important to engage with Brunswick and the larger New England community.”
James Denison ’14 and Daisy Alioto ’13 asked about the role Frank and Anne saw Maine and local artists playing in the museum.
“To be sensitive to the geography, the history, [and] the politics is incredibly important, because I think it’s an incredibly rich undertaking,” said Anne.
“It’s about a balance,” said Frank. “We will be sensitive to this place, for sure, but we will also look far afield.”
The Goodyears said that they are looking to explore the role that technology plays both at the museum and in museums in general.
“New media art is a brave new frontier,” said Frank. “Exhibitions pose questions. At the end of an exhibition we want to encourage people to continue those conversations...through the web or social media—technology is opening up possibilities of what a museum can be.”