Monday, July 22, 2013

You can go home again.

Shepard Fairey's Patti Smith
In 1990, I began my first museum job at the Contemporary Arts Center in Marketing and Public Relations, leaving ad agency world to check out the non-profit world. I started one week before the CAC went to trial for showing the work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. I can assure you, I was not the one responsible for talking to the national and international press but I learned a lot about strategy and messaging clarity from our crisis communications advisors and everyone else who was involved.

My task was to communicate about all the exhibitions and programs that were on deck. I worked with the most amazing staff including director Dennis Barrie, Carolyn Krause, Mary Magner, Jan Riley, Liz Scheurer, Jennifer Adams, Amy Banister, Bob Swaney, Nancy Glier and many more. The exhibitions that stand out in my mind are the Starn twins, Mechanica, Mel Chin, and Jana Sterbak. (And just this week I met a couple at the CAC who recalled how much they also loved Mechanica!) We brought in Eisenman and Gehry for a lecture and I got to hang out with Toni Morrison for a talk she gave at the Mercantile Library at our request. I created an event the TODT artists referred to as "Whoville" on Fountain Square to celebrate the opening of the Dale Chihuly show. These moments are the tip of the iceberg for a couple of years of awesome.

I went on to work with museums and artists via my work creating traveling art exhibitions. Later, I was director of Public Programs at what is now MOCA in Cleveland. My novel's protagonist is the curator of photography at a midwestern museum. I was the first writer on the International Spy Museum project. My play AS WHITE AS O is set in a museum. I have produced two other theatrical works at the Brooklyn Museum and the Folk Art Museum. Clearly, I love artists and museums.

But it never occurred to me that my new professional home might be exactly where I started. This summer I helped out the CAC in PR and Marketing while they were in transition after a staff reorganization. I had been the artist representative on the Board for a year and it seemed a good part-time fit. Last week, I interviewed for the "real" position and was offered the job on Friday. I gratefully accepted it.

So I am back! Once again I am wowed by the director and staff: Raphaela Platow, Steven Matijcio, Drew Klein, Jaime Thompson, Josh Mattie, Susan Berliant, David Dillion, Joel Armor, Dave Gearding, Marty Karp, Erin Sansalone and more. I am also ecstatic about the upcoming exhibitions, programs and opportunities. JR opens an exciting exhibition season and you will soon fatigue about all the programs I will be boasting about. They are SO GOOD. So you better just join and start hanging out with me.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the building. Next year is the 75th anniversary of the CAC. And the following year is the 25th anniversary of the Mapplethorpe exhibition. It is a truly momentous time to be there.

And not to worry. True Body Project will continue. Stay tuned on programs to come in the next year with my new partners in the work.


Mel Chin

Mike and Doug Starn catalogue