News Column

Arts dean to lead museum initiative

July 31, 2014

By Mike Bush, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

July 31--A short year-and-a-half after the University of New Mexico Art Museum welcomed Lisa Tamiris Becker as its new director, she is leaving to take a new job in Alabama.

Kymberly Pinder, dean of the UNM College of Fine Arts, of which the museum is a part, plans to take on the directorship for two years, in effect donning another cap to go along with her deanship. She is also calling on curators, art experts and academic administrators she knows and respects -- in effect forming a national blue-ribbon task force -- to help with a two-year effort to define the museum's role and set its future course in New Mexico and in the university's academic life.

The panel's focus will be on attracting museum specialists for "the largest collection of fine arts under one roof" in the state, Pinder said. The collection consists of some 30,000 works.

Working with UNM staff and faculty, the advisory council and guest curators, Pinder will lead the effort to fill vacancies and establish new initiatives -- including a three-year Ph.D. fellowship to train a growing number of students for curatorial programs nationwide.

Pinder described her "interim plan" as "an amazing opportunity to re-invent what a university museum can and should be on the campus of New Mexico's flagship university and in the community."

Besides Becker's departure, another four members of the staff -- three curators and the collections manager -- recently retired. Collectively, they had worked at the museum for about 50 years.

"The museum has a very small staff, and it's now been cut in half," Pinder said.

Pinder calls the museum a hidden treasure. "Tens of thousands of New Mexicans walk by this gem of a museum on their way to performances at Popejoy and Rodey theatres, or during visits to the UNM campus with students and families," she said. "We want folks to realize that they can experience a vast range of great art in just a few minutes by dropping in to enjoy our exhibits."

The museum is tucked away -- some say hidden -- near Popejoy Hall in the Center for the Arts building.

Pinder has discussed the planned reorganization with Provost Chaouki Abdallah, who promised to relieve her of some universitywide administrative duties to free up time for her new dual, dean-and-director role.

Pinder came to UNM two years ago from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she had been an art history professor for 16 years. She was also department chairwoman and head of the graduate program. She has worked in the education and curatorial departments in a number of top museums and galleries, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters in New York City. She holds a bachelor's degree from Middlebury College in Vermont, master's degrees in art history and philosophy and a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University.

Becker's most notable achievement was an exhibition from the museum's permanent collection to commemorate its 50th anniversary, Pinder said, adding, "now it's time to focus on the next 50 years."

Becker has worked as a curator and arts administrator for two decades. Her last day at UNM is Aug. 15. She will begin her new gig as founding director of the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts at the University of Alabama Birmingham two weeks later.

Becker, Pinder said, "did a lot of great things" at the helm of the museum, and will be missed.


(c)2014 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

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Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)

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