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Tuesday, July 23, 2019
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Arts museum directors honored at Emerson

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Emerson President Lee Pelton (center) and WGBH arts reporter Jared Bowen '98 (to Pelton's right) hosted a reception and discussion with three prominent arts museum directors who are leaving their posts: (from left) Thomas Lentz of the Harvard Art Museums, Anne Hawley, H '15, of the Isabella Stewart Gardner; and Malcom Rogers of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

Emerson College hosted a well attended reception and discussion on June 4 to honor the work of three prominent Boston–area arts museum directors who are all stepping down from their posts this year.

Anne Hawley, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum director who received an honorary degree from Emerson at last month’s Commencement, is leaving her position after 25 years; Thomas Lentz, director of the Harvard Art Museums, is leaving after more than a decade; and Malcolm Rogers, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, is departing after 20 years.

“We are in an unprecedented moment, where we have three arts curators leaving us at the same time,” Emerson President Lee Pelton told the audience. “Your achievements have been absolutely stunning. You’ve taken your [institutional] icons from a place of excellence to a place of extraordinary. For that we are profoundly grateful.”

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The ceremony for the three museum directors at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre of the Paramount Center on June 4 was well attended. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

Numerous arts leaders from the Boston area attended the event, which had more than 150 guests that included the directors of several other museums; Julie Burros, chief of arts for the City of Boston; David Dower, executive director of ArtsEmerson; and Ted Cutler ’51, the Emerson Trustee Emeritus who is overseeing the upcoming Outside the Box festival.

The event was held in the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre of the Paramount Center.

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Ted Cutler '51, David Dower of ArtsEmerson, and Ted Landsmark, former president of the Boston Architectural College. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

The discussion moderator, WGBH arts reporter Jared Bowen ’98, asked the three leaders what their plans are after leaving their respective institutions.

“I’m going to take a big deep breath,” Lentz said. “The one thing I do know is it will be in a warm place.”

“Travel to me is very important,” said Rogers, who said he also would like to do scholarly work. “I judge the temperature of almost every city that I go to by the quality of the museums.”

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Malcom Rogers, outgoing director of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

“I feel like I’m graduating from college and I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do next,” said Hawley. “I don’t know, other than I’m going to be spending more time with my husband. There’s studying I’d like to do…and I’d also like to be able to work more closely with artists on projects in the arts, but not have to deal with the infrastructure.”

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Anne Hawley, outgoing director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

The three directors discussed other topics, including the changing roles of museums and their leaders.

“Museums are really, now, arenas. There are a lot of players in the arena,” Lentz said. “All of these players and constituencies have opinions.”

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Musicians perform during the reception. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

“Once upon a time, the director was a representative of the status quo, but I think now there is a moral imperative to be a change agent,” Rogers said.

Hawley said that, while challenging, the job of a museum curator has gotten more fun with time.

“To be more responsive to the audience, you have to think more carefully about what they want and what they are experiencing,” Hawley said. “But I think it’s just a thrill to work with the curatorial staff and conceptualize the programs, and find new ways to express relationships to objects. All that juice and that thinking is thrilling.”

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David Dower, executive director of ArtsEmerson with Michaele Whelan, chief academic officer for Emerson, and Sylvia Spears, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Emerson. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)

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Emerson Trustee Raj Sharma, MA '83, with Lis Tarlow, Chair of the MFA Board of Trustees, and Nalini Sharma. (Photo by Tony Rinaldo)