Who's Who in the Art Museum

If it’s on your bucket list to schedule a museum exhibition, volunteer or work at a museum, or see your art in a museum collection, you will benefit if you understand how a museum administration is structured.

While I haven’t been part of the museum world since 2001, I am confident that what I share below can still be helpful to you. Keep in mind, however, that not all museums operate the same way, and there is a vast difference between how small and large museum personnel divide their responsibilities.

Let’s start with an overview of the basic museum hierarchy.

Museum Hierarchy

Board of Directors

Or University Dean, Provost or President. This official body is ultimately responsible for the overall well-being of the institution.

Director of Museum

Museum Staff

Volunteers

Now we can look at the individual roles of the staff members.

Directors

Museum directors are responsible for overseeing all operations. They keep the board of directors informed through regular meetings and as-necessary contact. They serve at the pleasure of the board.

Directors often have art backgrounds, but more and more of them have business experience and political (fundraising) acumen.

The director juggles trying to please the staff, the board, the university (if on a campus), the public, and volunteers.

How an Artist Might Work with a Museum Director

In museums with a curatorial staff, you probably wouldn’t have much contact with a director. However, it might be necessary for a director to assume some of the roles below if there are only a few on staff at the museum.

Curators

Curators, who answer to the director, are the objects (art) experts on a museum staff and often hold doctorates in art history. Being the objects experts, curators shape the content of museum collections and exhibitions, and write and speak extensively about the art.

Some museums

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Portrait Project and Museum Exhibition with Lisa Kovvuri (Podcast)

Little gives me more pleasure than watching a client successfully attain a major goal.

In this podcast episode, I share the story of Lisa Kovvuri, with whom I worked in my Art Biz Inner Circle as she was starting her project, The Portrait Experience.

We discuss:

  • How The Portrait Experience was conceived and executed at Whistler House Museum of Art.
  • How she found people to sit for her.
  • What she learned during the process.
  • What’s next.

We also find out that most of the paintings have since sold.

It’s been a joy to watch her progress and the ultimate culmination of her efforts – the opening of her museum show.

I hope you are inspired by this conversation about how Lisa accomplished her colossal goal. Listen now …

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A Married Life in Art: Sam Woolcott and Poe Dismuke (Podcast)

When Sam Woolcott, one of my Art Biz Inner Circle members, told me that she and her husband were invited to have a joint museum exhibition, I knew I had to interview them.

They live together and have been happily married for more than 20 years.

For ten of those years, they have jointly owned a gallery based in the arts community of Bisbee, Arizona.

Each has a thriving studio practice.

Now they’re showing together in a 2-person exhibition at The University of Arizona Museum of Art.

How do they balance their separate work and artist lives together?

In this podcast episode, I introduce you to Sam, the painter, and Poe Dismuke, her husband and sculptor. We discuss:

  • What their daily routines and work styles look like
  • What their art has in common
  • Life in Bisbee (sounds like it’s a must-see)
  • How the museum show came about

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Artists’ Egos < Deep Thought Thursday

There has been debate since Clyfford Still’s death in 1980 over the part of his will that left his paintings to any city that would build a museum for them.

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Paying extra for viewing a single masterpiece

What’s it worth to you to view a masterpiece? Should art be for the masses and available to view free of charge? This is a follow-up to last week’s Deep Thought Thursday.

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Deep Thought Thursday: The price of viewing a masterpiece

Would you pay an extra $17 to see a single painting by a Renaissance master? Why or why not? Deep Thought Thursday’s are a forum to help get you thinking about art and ideas.

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Podcast: Seize This Opportunity

Now is a good time to send an exhibit proposal to your local museum. Take the lead!

Mentioned in this podcast: Draft a Winning Exhibition Proposal

Prefer reading to listening? Click here.

 

The last episode of the Art Marketing Action podcast was November 22, 2010. You can listen to or download any episode on iTunes.

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Submit a Museum Proposal

Recession, recession, recession! That’s all we’re hearing these days. Things are going to be tough for a while, but there’s still a silver lining in every situation if you look at all the angles.

Carpe diem!

For instance, now would be a terrific time to put together an exhibition proposal for your local museum or art center. Museums are hurting these days. They’re laying off staff and cutting back on budgets. You–the local artists–could be a budget-saver for them. I hate to put it this way, but you’re a cheap program.

Jo-Ann Sanborn, Beach Path. Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches. ©The Artist

Museum exhibitions are often planned 2-4 years (or more) in advance. Big-budget exhibits may be scaled back right now or even canceled. Guess what? The gallery spaces still have to be filled

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Exhibition Proposals that Came Across My Desk

A lot of exhibition proposals came across my desk when I worked in art museums. Most were from exhibition touring companies, but some were from individual artists or art organizations.

In the museum, it was important that any exhibition we booked from outside our collection was (1) fundable, (2) educational, and (3) something that would bring people into our galleries.

Curators don’t always have ultimate control over what is exhibited. They must consult with educators (What programs could we line up with this exhibition? Would school groups come to see this?) … development directors (Could we get a grant for this? Is there a major donor that would partially fund this?) … the board of directors … and, of course, the director.

If you’re interested in showing your art in museums, I suggest knowing more about Continue reading…

Treat Your Art Like It Belongs in a Museum

From the moment a work of art enters a museum, it is treated as the special one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable object it is. It sits in a crate in the loading area and acclimates to its new surroundings.

Martha Marshall, Harbor Triptych. Acrylic on canvas. © The Artist

After sufficient time has passed, it is uncrated by the preparator or registrar who is wearing white gloves. A condition report is conducted–probably by the registrar. She will use the right lighting, magnification, and perhaps even ultraviolet light to ensure nothing has changed since the original condition report that accompanied the piece on its travels.

Loan and insurance forms are completed. Data is entered into the computer.

Gallery lighting is meticulous and at the appropriate foot-candle level for the medium. Labels are uniform. Floors are cleaned

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