Nov. 1, 2020

Anne-Marie Russell, Executive Director of the Sarasota Art Museum, Joins the Club

Anne-Marie Russell, Executive Director of the Sarasota Art Museum, Joins the Club

She moved to the Suncoast from Tucson, Arizona to open the much anticipated Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College at the repurposed Sarasota High School on 41. Three months later, it closed due to Covid. Now that it has reopened to the public, executive director, Anne-Marie Russell, wants you to know about this "third space" and how it can enhance your life.
"Every object has a story," "the creation of art allowed us to become human," "art tells the truth," "art helps me have a conversation with myself," "this place was built with love." 
Come along and join the club!

• Sarasota Art Musum of Ringling College Website & Facebook & Instagram

• Ringling College of Art and Design Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube

• SCF Art Gallery Facebook & Instagram

• Katherine Bzura Facebook & Instagram

• State College of Florida Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube

State College of Florida Music Program Website & Instagram

• State College of Florida Theatre Program Website & Facebook & Instagram

• State College of Florida Foundation Website and Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn

Support the show (https://scf-foundation.org/suncoastcultureclub/)


Transcript

I am going to try not to fan girl too much today and it's going to be difficult, but I am sitting down with Anne- Marie Russell at her museum, and she is the executive director here and also the chief curator with 25 years of experience in cultural production and education. She is an entrepreneurial leader known for building diverse teams and employing innovative and creative practices.
Reflecting a wide range of cultural and pedagogical structures, foundational training and anthropology providing cultural , competency centered practice, rigorous critical kind of stewardship skills combined with strengths in governance and institutional development. Skilled at facilitating large scale productions with artists and leading project managing cultural facility.
Add up to reuse projects. She is the founder of innovative new media organizations, creating unique platforms for emerging artists to gain exposure and audience. She has an art history background covering global art production with emphasis on indigenous traditions and cosmologies and modern and contemporary eras, deep commitment to mining the past.
She brings about a more just future. Now that sums you up, but in no way, does that describe you? So today we're going to welcome you to the Suncoast Culture Club and dive a little deeper. It's great to be here. Thank you. And, that was a mouthful. I think I could just say that. , my business card should read support staff for artists because that's really what I do.
I like that it's simpler. And, curiosity, I think that's the other thing. I'm  professionally curious, and then I think we're done well, everything think that sums it up. So can you tell our listeners where you and I are this morning sitting in one of my favorite rooms on the Ringling college museum campus, where the, Sarasota art museum is housed in a 1926, collegiate Gothic building designed by M Leo Elliot. The M stands for Malakai, which I just love. the building was  built in 1926 and we're in, what's called the conservatory. And, it's essentially the. Curatorial research library . It's sort of the reading room for after people go through all the exhibitions.
we named it the conservatory because in, 1926, that's what Elliot had called the room, the program for the high school. it was a library and it had botanical samples and scientific samples. So it was a study room, which is essentially what it is now. It's sort of a study slash. Playroom. it's filled with bright green Ames chairs and beautiful furniture and Seranin wound chairs and beanbag chairs and kids' furniture and lots of books and art.
And it's a great source of pleasure and joy for people when they finished going through all the exhibitions and then they come and hang out here. And, often we hear raucous laughter coming from the conservatory, which fills this place with great joy and, fills my heart with great joy. We find people in here.
prior to the pandemic, we had, puzzles in here as well. So people would do puzzles together and they would be pouring over books together and really, , families and,  kids learning together. , I don't think there's any greater pleasure as a human being than learning. It's such a truly central experience, but I think sometimes with our educational structures, learning seems boring or uninteresting or a chore that you have to do.
, when you come to the museum to learn, it is. All about pleasure and joy. So it's really makes a lot of sense that when people occupy this space,  they're learning, but they're, , tapping into their,  curiosity and really enjoying it. So yes, we're in the conservatory and it is a joy to be up here.
Just the energy in this room is fantastic. And you and I took a journey to walk up here this morning. Just the first day the museum is open. To the general public and every face that we saw on our way up here is smiling and delighted. The sun is shining in. It feels just extremely hopeful on this campus today.
So that's where we start our conversation. Well, it's funny. have to say we,  opened on December 14th, and we had an intensively fabulous. Three months , we were far busier than we had. planned for it was so exciting. and there was such great energy. And I have to say in that period, my,  absolute favorite comment that someone made someone came to me excitedly and said, Anne Marie and Marie, even people who don't like art love the museum made me so happy because the point is.
This place  was designed to be a third space, right? You've got, , home work or school, and then that other place that you go, and there aren't a lot of great third spaces that are public community spaces, where you can, , go and hang out with family and friends. and this  sort of fulfilled all of our hopes and dreams about being a great third space.
, there's indoor spaces, outdoor spaces. All sorts of liminal spaces and sure. There's art everywhere and you'll encounter it. And you might like this or not that, but the point is people just like to be here. It just feels good. The architecture is fantastic. both the original Elliott building, the 1959 Paul Rudolph building and then the, KR, , uniting the two, the new structures.
. It just feels good to be here. , we opened two weeks ago, but the exhibition galleries were for members only preview. So people have been coming over the past two weeks to the brand new Veestro, which we're super excited about because I really, really love to eat.
And the food's fantastic. And the shop and the grounds, there's a wonderful installation on the grounds called lists. Thrombose a great spinning top sort of an interactive kinetic sculpture, the meander, which is one of my favorite things. It's a winding path that in this sort of public park that that museum is housed in, the store has all sorts of fun things.
We saw it on the way out here. so there's just a lot of fun stuff to do. You can hang out in the Plaza having an espresso. So it's becoming just a really great. Kind of hangout. and so it was very exciting, very busy then of course, , , March 13th was our last day. I remember that Tuesday, I had a,  museum advisory board committee and I said, you know, I think we might need to close our doors.
And by Friday it was really clear that that was going to be the last day. So it's been,  a very busy quarantine. I'll have to say I did not have time to make the sourdough bread that a lot of people have been making. And we were busier than ever, because we were a quince Tala. We don't have a permanent collection.
So the three years of work that we did  designing conceive of the programming for the next three years after opening really had to be thrown out and we had to start over and remake the entire three-year period in about a three month period. So it's been. Massively busy. but I'm happy to report that all of that sort of settled out very well.
You know, you're renegotiating hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of. Loans for works of art from around the world and kind of horse trading this and, , exhibitions, , work that was already supposed to be back in collector's homes is still on the road. It just goes on international shipping logistics.
, everything came to a grinding halt, et cetera, et cetera. . you get the idea, we were busy. Your energy has not been diminished. I am guessing during pandemic, it seems like it's probably given you a chance to energize yourself. And we're going to talk about. What happened and how you see yourself rebounding even further into the future from reopening and being open, right.
To start at the beginning. Huh? I don't always want to start at the beginning, but there's some things I'm curious because I do want to go back in time a little bit. That's what I want to do. I want a time machine back with you because of the person who's sitting here in front of me, super duper, interesting.
And did not get this way without having something interesting happened to her along the way. So I do want to talk about this creative life with you in the driver's seat here at the museum. But I want to explore the history of you specifically. Can you share some parts of the journey that brought you to Florida, maybe some early interests.
What about your former careers and how did you make the decision to leave Tucson and join us here in Sarasota? Okay. well I think that, it might seem like an odd path my path, but, I feel like I've had . Virtually the same set of interests since I was a kid. in fact, I realized I'm wearing the same outfit I've been wearing since I was about five years old.
So  as the French say, right. , uh, more things change. The more they stay the same. came across my. High school sort of aptitude test thing,  when you move, of course, these things get excavated in the strategic graphy of your life.
You don't remember moving here and trying to unearth my daughter's fourth grade report card, which I could not find, but I found my fourth grade,  essay I wrote. So the strategic graphy of your life gets up ended when you move, because things that were on the bottom or on top, et cetera. So, I found this and it said, , interests in film and architecture and, , that has never changed.
So I think  everything that I've done is all part of,  the same. field, I began, studies in cultural anthropology, which was really, really key. This is, , 30 years ago in college and I, to this day take an ethnographic approach to my art history. So I think that, , anthropology you're on that, synchronic.
Access, , sort of across, space and, th then trained as an historian. I do the diachronic access. So you put those two together and I think it gives you a more holistic approach to studying culture. So, when I began in cultural anthropology and ethnography, I immediately began to focus on, Cultural appropriation, which 30 years ago is not like, you know, now I'm so happy to see that it's part of the public discourse.
I wish that happened sooner.  So human beings have been, , traveling around this planet for various reasons. Usually either moving away from some kind of conflict, usually. Environmental degradation and moving toward resources.
Right? So we've been migrating around this globe for a long time. and then some who gathered resources were able to go out and, , either explore and are conquered depending on the position that you're looking at this. So human beings gathered things we're collectors,  we all gather things.
And, part of the colonial process gathering. Objects things are basically stolen from other cultures, brought back to a home culture and stories were told about them. And the stories that got told about those objects were often erroneous narratives designed specifically to justify. Germany. 
, these are primitive peoples. We must go conquer them. So I became very interested in the stories that were told about what we used to call non-Western objects by Western peoples. now I think more sort of global South would be language that we would use. but at the time that was,  the language.
So I was so fascinated by, the stories we would tell about other people's things. and the notion of cultural authority, , who has the authority to speak, who has the authority to make meaning? so I think I'm  super interested in objects.  art history and the Academy's fine, but , slides, reproductions, Oh my God, slides.
I just totally dated myself reproductions. I,  missed the slide librarians running through the slide library. I'm thinking we must as just like a curiosity object for the kids today who were like, what is this. Yeah, exactly. And Ben payphones.  I'm a real sort of tactile.
you can't see me now. I'm like, , smoking the chair and the front and the texture. I love objects. , but I'm super interested in what they can tell us about ourselves, about our fellow human beings, about people from the past. So I,  guess, , that's what art historians do, right? We excavate objects.
That's what anthropologists and archeologists do we like pull meaning out of objects or we make meaningful objects. So I'm very interested. This is where the connoisseurship.  there's information that is intrinsic to the object, like physically embedded in it. It's materials, it's, , the half-life of this and whatever scientific testing.
And then there's, information that's extrinsic to the object, but kind of contained in the object that you can sort of unpack. So I'm super interested in,  objects and what they mean and how they can mean. So, Oh, gosh, have I gone down a rabbit hole? I love this rabbit hole because you and I, this is going to be hard for us.
Let's just acknowledge you. And I are both art historians, and you're telling me this story and I'm sort of sitting here with my mouth open because you're describing your life, which is also my life, but you're just using different words, but you're telling the same story and it makes me feel the connection that I hope that our students and visitors and people that observe.
The information that we put together, , the exhibitions that you have, the lecture series that you have. I think that's what we want is we want people to feel connected and the objects are where the real magic is. We know it, we don't always have access to them, but when we do, we teach people how to understand the real.
Sacredness of that. Absolutely. So it's going to be hard for you and I to stay on track of not really last conversation. This is just the beginning. but , you nailed it. And I think what's interesting to me and what I care  deeply about is that, , we're art historians, but. Every human being does this, you go through anyone's home there's stuff, right?
There is stuff. , there's a seashell that was picked up.  there's a rock. , there's a plate from your grandmother. There's a quilt. There's a, this there's a poster. There's just stuff you walk around your house.
This is why I'm super excited about the,  bistro. I chose the,  tonnage. They're in a, number 14 chair to be the bistro chair. So we did this exhibition around the globe and we had, one of the workers came through the other day and he stopped and he read the entire wall and the whole didactic around the chair.
And he's like, huh, I guess every object has a story. And I'm like, bingo. Mission accomplished. You know, like, this is why we're here. This is why we have a museum to have people look around them and everything around you. If it wasn't,  part of nature. It was designed by human being. Someone thought about that,  some things aren't designed better or worse of course, than other things.
And I,  really like the really nice things, that are designed well. but the point is a human being thought through every moment of that thing and went through an  iterative design process to get the thing in the world. And then I guess what art historians do is you kind of reverse engineer that process and when we can, yeah.
, to the best of our ability sometimes, right? Knowing that we make mistakes well, and it's fun sometimes when you see how we got it wrong. , the oldest work of art that I teach in my art history classes is I think it's 540,000 years old, as far as we know, it's a carved shell.
but the,  mistakes and the miss narratives that have been told about objects, right. As fascinating as the ones. I remember this group of UltraScan objects, that I looked at the exhibition of the same group of objects over 150 year period. And the objects were used to tell different stories.
, at one point it was a story about Italian, , unification and in another  point in time, the exhibition of these Atrust and objects was, funded by Olivetti. So it was about the story of Italian design. We've been great designers since way back when. And so it's so interesting.
The way we can use objects to tell stories whether they're correct or not. and then, , there's a real dark side to this too, right? I mean, look at how the Nazis used objects and symbols, , the running man symbol to tell stories, to tell incorrect stories about dominance and power. So I think, , anyone who would suggest that artists.
So peripheral Lewis or,  sort of a luxury add on is kind of missing the point. There's a wonderful, extraordinary, book. I a really remarkable woman. I think her name is Elaine descend, Yaki. It's called what is art for? She's an evolutionary biologist. And she wrote this book and she basically argues.
Art was not something that human beings started producing when they had enough leisure time after the hunt or  were well fed enough. And their brains were large enough that they could, she said it's actually art and the creation of art that grew our brains that allowed us to become human.
So I'm a deep believer in that. Idea. And that concept that it is so central and integral to who we are as creatures, that , we can't be separated from it. So, yeah, I think it's important. Of course we do. It's like choir preaching, choir preaching going on here. But the one thing that I heard reiterated  has been singing in my mind over the last couple of weeks.
Art tells the truth. If it's not telling the truth, we don't give it the capital a and we call it something else. I think it was Lewis Hine, who said, photographs don't lie, but photographers do so art, never lies, but those who use art to tell stories sometimes in fact do so. Yes. I think , the greatest art,  is. Challenging for all of us is that word might not be ready for that truth. And I think that's something that we're really mindful of at the museum.  , museums can be very intimidating places. I mean, I know a lot about art up and in this world forever and I still can walk into a gallery and museum and like, Ooh, am I supposed to understand this?
Am I supposed to know about this? Am I wearing the right thing? Am I saying the right thing? It's, they're kind of intimidating places. So we wanted this place to feel. Totally warm, totally safe, totally comfortable. The visitor experience associates who you saw, are wearing bright pink aprons. You're not sure if they're going to bring you a plate of chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven.
That's the idea. They're there to sort of help. If you want to feel really disarmingly, charming and welcoming, To really make everyone feel comfortable because you kind of don't know. , I've been confronted with works of art and I've had this reaction of like, , fear or anger or I'm scared, or I'm like something like a strong reaction.
Right. And so you kind of don't know when something's going to trigger someone's, especially great works of art that contained truths that we might not always be ready for. So it can be, Yeah, uncomfortable. We make people uncomfortable. Sometimes. I think maybe of my, one of my favorite quotes by John cage,  he said, I don't know why people are so afraid of new ideas. It's the old ones that scare me. And I think that's such a great quote because, , Some things that are familiar to us might not necessarily be good, but they're familiar. And I think if we're constantly kind of evaluating, well, that seemed like a good idea at the time, but maybe not so much anymore.
And I think if, everyone feels safe and comfortable or at least supported to examine reevaluate reconsider, and I think that's, what's so hard about this moment in time, because we've lost a sense of , how to effectively argue or have conflict or work through something. And, , discourse is kind of shut down.
And there's a lot of polarization. And  I've been a big fan of teaching, both, ethics one Oh one and econ one Oh one and all high school curriculum. I think the idea that we have lost the art of debate, that we've lost the ability to. Unpack deconstruct have conversations, tease something out together.
, I think we have to relearn how to do that after this kind of traumatic period we're going through where we seem to have forgotten, , it's a skill that used to be trained. It used to be a value that we had that we needed to sort of teach people, , rhetoric.
Oratorical skills. just how to analyze something critical thinking we call it.  there are art forms of communication that I think are lost and I'm hoping that this museum, any museum, that public spaces like this, that foster discourse can help us relearn. How to talk to each other.
And my darling husband, who, is so brilliant and so extraordinary, it says the most beautiful thing he said once, , art helps me have a conversation with myself. And I think that that really resonated with me that the objects.  they're mnemonic devices and they're,  facilitating devices that allow us to communicate with ourselves, with people who came before with each other, hopefully with the future.
So , I think they're are the objects that connect humanity across space and time. And you and I have these skills. I mean, my skills to communicate with objects , can fluctuate day to day. I get distracted. I lose focus. I'm intent on something else. And literally the world is rushing past me. And I'm not taking time to be present.
I'm not necessarily very happy in this moment or do I feel satisfied? We have learned. And I think one of my most powerful things that I teach, and it sounds like you do too, is I teach students how to slow down. That art objects are not going to give themselves over and a half of a second to them like a meme would, they are meant to have longer relationships with they're meant to change as you change in the amount of time that you give them is the amount of insight that you receive back.
So again, you and I are speaking the same language. I think part of your powerful. Skill set as an executive director, as the leader here would be that teaching element . That you've been in a classroom that you have told stories as an anthropologist.  you just said something.
, a few really important things.  Slow is the operative word in meander. Here is specifically designed to slow. Things down. So we took what would be a five minute walk across the campus and turned it into a 40 minute stroll.
And I love taking walking meetings and the ideas slow down here. so yeah, slow is and something else you said about, Yeah, things aren't going to reveal themselves to you immediately, like a meme would. Exactly. and really it's a relationship and who would have a relationship where they thought they could give nothing and get everything from it.
Like you've got to give something to the work and the work will give something back to you, but make a little bit of an effort. but we also need to do a better job of training. People how to do that. So filmmaking, which is a perfect segue because I love to write about art. I love to talk about art. I love to read about art.
but film is this extraordinary medium to expose. Art, , you can move through a gallery space, you can move around an object,  , we're sitting in a library full of art books and nobody loves them more than I do.
Right. but film can really do a much better job. And so, yeah. It's not that I'm a filmmaker per se. Although I had some really good training from some really wonderful people. And can I just call out bill Stamets for a moment that brilliant filmmaker, who I adore, who had a massive impact on my, intellectual development.
Thank you, bill. but I, came to filmmaking basically as an art historian storyteller, looking for better ways to tell stories. And I think it's a great medium for storytelling. So the,  irony, with, public programming and the pandemic is that, ,  I'm kind of known for this connoisseurship right.
So direct, empirical engagement with works of art and, , no reproduction. And yet I also, , put one of the first art sites on the internet and make movies about art. So I'm all about the reproduction,  so I think the big lesson for me, when everyone overnight on a dime had to shift from, , IRL to URL was that it's not, that one is better or worse than the other.
You want to use the camera? The camera can see things that the eye can't see, the camera can do amazing things. And there's stuff that you just can't understand or apprehend or experience through. Reproduction, however, , suppose high fidelity it is. And I think it's interesting when we talk about that fidelity like truth, 
however, , all the pixels in the world and the tiniest are not going to get you the truth. . So, that kind of  high-def detail does not equal truth. In fact, it's often quite misleading. So I think it's really interesting when you think, well, what,  can only happen in real life, and what's even better enhanced.
Through reproductive technologies. , I think a lot of  institutions when the pandemic hit and we had to close our doors, it was an immediate rush to sort of, , quick engage, engage, engage digitally. , we made a decision. Let's just like leave everyone alone for a little bit, because we're all trying to process this massive existential threat.
, it's not like it was a surprise. This is not the first pandemic in the world. and we probably could have prepared better for it, but , human beings are great at denying reality. So here we are. So we didn't really want to overwhelm people with all sorts of digital engagement.
, I'd rather eat glass , they get on another zoom meeting . So I think being very, judicious about what,  must be reserved for real life and what can be great through, digital technologies.
So making those decisions a lot more. Presently than we were before. I have a scholar in Australia that I love that is dealing with this pandemic differently in more performance-related art and teaching now, was it NYU no-no Australia. And she said the other day, if someone wants to set up another zoom meeting that could have been handled by an email, I'm going to put on my mask and I'm going to put on my glove and I'm going to punch him in the throat.
And it,  encapsulated this,  feeling that we probably all had about meetings before or face to face things that could have been handled in an email. But now we really think about it. Let's talk about being a connoisseur or of, communication and media of communication. Like this is good for a text.
This needs an email. This is a phone call. Right. this is great for a face-to-face meeting. This could be great for zoom. , there's a time for a letter and there's a time for a postcard and there's a time for a tweet and there's a time for a dissertation. And if,  everyone can sort of just match the medium with the message, then.
I think we're great, but we get really sloppy. I have  someone who I will not name who I love dearly, but who sends me texts that are like, , scrolling down and I'm like, this was not attacks. Well, I think it's just the idea of each medium has its attributes and its shortcomings. And I think we can really match,  medium to the message.
I think that's so interesting. I mean, this could be a  masterclass that you could teach because I'm seeing your skillset as an art historian. We love to categorize things when my kids were little, like categorize things into different buckets, like the big Lakos couldn't be with the little Legos and it just would drive me crazy.
And it gave me satisfaction to do those things. I wasn't thinking I was cleaning. I was giving myself a remedy for a life that felt out of control with small children. But you just did the same thing with communication, This is a text. This is , an email. This is a letter. This is a postcard. I don't know whether I've ever heard a list that was that full or that relevant to our lives.
And it included very intimate kinds of conversation, which I consider a postcard to be intimate in a letter to be very intimate. A phone call to be intimate, a text message, less an email, less. It's interesting. The degrees we talk a lot around here about, different kinds of programming that we do. Some things are a back porch conversations.
Some things are a front porch conversation. Some things are conversations that happen in the kitchen around the kitchen table. Some things are more formal in the dining room and there are different sort of. Physical spaces. When you think about the level of either seriousness or attention must be paid to, I think that's is that Arthur Miller death of a salesman attention must be paid.
different kinds of attention must be paid in different,  levels of conversation. , you know, when your parents called you into a certain room in the house and , this was a serious conversation. This was not a casual, , breakfast nook conversation kind of thing. So I think, , as an art historian, of course, we're, , classification and taxonomy junkies.
I was just thinking about how I've got this great collection of silver mint Julep. Cups on my,  desk, there are about nine of them from the early sixties to the mid seventies. I'm missing 1973 from this particular country club that I got at some junk store. But , this one has all the black flare pens.
This one has all the blue flare pens. This one has all the red flare place and I'm  kind of messy in other ways, but God forbid that black flare plan get in the 1973, , mint or whatever too. So you get the idea at the sorting the Lego's it's a way , we create taxonomies, as a way to organize.
Thoughts and we create classification systems  to attempt to gain some degree and it's not control it's, it's some making meaning some understanding of the complexity. I mean, if you sit back and think about our universe, which is really multiple expanding universe is apparently it's shaped like a prickly pear that just keeps going on forever.
 Oh, okay. Right out the door here. from the conservatory is Christian Samson's Vita and Mo to one of the most magnificent art experiences. it's three 65, 24, seven. So impossible to ever apprehend. You will never be able to totally view or experience this work of art. but , for those who haven't been here yet, it's a beautiful light installation.
 there's a wall of windows that are, oriented due East and there are multi-colored plexiglass planes that are hanging and just beautiful configuration. And basically the sun rises in the morning and shines through them and casts a light painting on the adjacent wall. , and then it slowly moves down.
The wall and what you realize it's in mode two it's life in motion. I'm standing on a giant ball that's spinning and it's spinning around another giant ball of fire. And that's really daunting, , you feel magnificent and tiny all at once, but the reality of our world and the complexity of it, there's this beautiful, Beautiful line in Darwin's origin of species.
it's toward the end. I think it's like the beginning of the last paragraph. It's one of my favorite books. Talk about rhetoric. I mean, this is like Cicero, right? Tell people what you're going to tell them, tell it to them, to remind them what you just told them. But just the way that he structures the book to make this really compelling argument, that he was .
Quite insecure about making publicly. It was Alfred Russell Wallace, who sort of, , young upstart who pushed him to rush this. but I think he was very, very tentative about making this public argument that he'd been sitting on for decades, but he writes, this line, he says there is grandeur in this view of life.
So the idea that when you think in geological time or universal space or the space of, , evolution change over time, it's simultaneously incredibly, humbling.  You feel so small and yet you feel so. Grand part of this big experiment so that, , the paradox of feeling both of those things at once is really magnificent.
 So what we'll do is we'll take that idea of paradox and we'll take a short pause for a break and we'll pick that up when we come back. Perfect. So stick with us, who knows where we're going next.
And we're back. We ended that last segment with paradox, and I think we could pick it up because we are holding two things, one in one hand and one in another, and they seem diametrically opposed. And we're in a very divided moment, probably in American history. So we've talked a lot about the pandemic, about the momentum that the museum had upon opening and then your,  decision to shut down when everyone else shut down in March reopening today to the public, been open for members for a little while.
What do you think about the paradox of moving forward as a museum? And say the word one more time. I have people ask me about this. You're a non collecting institution, a third space safe, one word for us again. Quince art hall, art hall, right art hall. So you had a different vision. Than we had seen in Sarasota or on the Suncoast coming into town.
Well, actually it's the founders who had this vision. I love you founders. Thank you. We are , so grateful to you. the 13 extraordinary Sarasota ones who,  we're in love with Sarasota. And so all of these extraordinary cultural initiatives and activities, and over a long period of time and said, you know, what's missing is a great contemporary museum, but they were wise and precious enough to know that, , we've got the Ringling museum, which is one of my favorite places on the planet.
What a treasure that is. and why not have, a more responsive space that can change out all the time that perpetual revolution. And that's, what's so exciting about it.  of course we love our permanent collections and I love to go back and I'll go into the Ringling just to go visit one painting and commune with that painting.
, I freaked out recently when they re-installed, the room with the Rosa Bunner and the Duchamp, the weirdo Duchamp's with them. Oh, landscapes. And I'm like, where is it? Where is it? It was terrible. who did I just, Oh, right. so, , it's comforting to go into a museum and to know that this thing is going to be hanging there and you can go visit your old friend.
. But it's also super exciting to have new things change all the time. So that was the vision of the founders.  they were so brilliant and so extraordinary. And, I think it's,  probably so nice for them to see, , all of this come to realization and they really got it.
Right. , when I look back at the documents and the minutes from the meeting and their notes, , from 15, 16 years ago, They knew exactly what they wanted to see. And my job was to realize their vision and  by their accounts, I did, which is great. but I really, it just, I felt like I was in service of, to them and their vision and, , they were spot on.
I remember when you first came to town, he wore a hard hat a lot. I lived in that hardhat for it. Yeah. Yeah. Do you miss that? I have to say, I'm going to get weepy. Have you seen the worker project? Oh my God. I'm going to start crying. It's terrible. can we just talk about that for forever? Yes, of course please.
, One day . just about a year into.   my tenure here and about six months into our, second phase of the adaptive reuse, which is the new construction, one of the contractors, Darren Harris, very dear and brilliant.  young man had been working on the South side, restoring some brick with a Mason.
And, the Mason had a brick in his hand and  late a trial of mortar. And it was just about to place the brick. And he paused and he turned to Jaren and said, you know, Jaron. A hundred years ago, guys, just like us laid these bricks. So Darren of course was totally moved. And then Jared ran immediately.
He's like, Anne-Marie, I've got to tell you this story. And I immediately just got super choked up and right then it was like, okay, we can not let this group of guys. And mostly guys. Handful of women, be lost to history the way that that first round was. So obviously, , there are people's names on walls and we celebrate the architects and we celebrate the donors and, , their brass, plaques and whatnot.
But what you never see, I see are the artists who used their hands and their skills and their brains to actually build. This place. So we wanted to make sure they were honored and recognized, and it turned out to be such a magical thing. So, it was very clear to me immediately, exactly the person who should do this.
So we commissioned an extraordinary photographer by the name of Barbara Banks. She's actually a grad of the high school.  and her father was the principal at one point. And most importantly, her art teacher, H O Davis, he, taught a number of students and whether they went on to become artists or not his teaching art.
And in this case with Barbara photography, basically taught these kids how to C taught them how to think and taught them how to see. And so many, SHS alums talk about this amazing art teacher who really transformed their lives. So Barbara was a product of this and a product. But this place. So we commissioned her to do, portraits of each of the workers.
And it was so magical because she's an extraordinary human being. She she's an amazing portrait photographer, but she's just a really, really special human being and,  in the field with these guys in the trenches, just getting to know them and that bond is,  magical. And.  what was so moving is that so many of them  repeated that, , nobody sees us.
We're like these dirty construction workers and we're just not even seen. We're not recognized. What do you mean you want to take my picture? What do you mean? You want to memorialize me in a photograph? That's on a wall of a museum. This is like unheard of. So the project is really special and , you can see it online.
And you can really go through all the portraits online. And then there's an installation, here  on the ground floor of the worker project. , it's my hope that this becomes a convention for all projects.  a couple of things were really interesting from an art historical standpoint that came out of this , this building's a hundred years old.
And , each trade, whether, , Mason that tile, the electrical, the woodworking, the, the terracotta, whatever trade it was, as the guys are sort of excavating the old and making the new, they could see, Oh, that's how something was made 100 years ago. And let's just say the quality of things has kind of.
, diminished  as, automation has come into play. So I think it really upped everyone's game when they could see that their companion tradesperson a hundred years ago took such care and it's something was made so well, I think there was a sense of quality. Everyone wanted to really match that quality.
So that was super interesting. It's also really interesting at this moment in time when we're losing a lot of jobs too. Automation. And a lot of the things that these guys are doing that  takes such an extreme skillset. no AI, no computer, no. , digitized process will come close to what a human being can do.
So we're really losing a lot. We're not just losing jobs  we're losing a lot of quality  as we make things in the world, when human beings aren't as involved. , super magical moving project, the gift that keeps on giving and we're really grateful to all of them. So thank you.
Work or project brought a lot of us on board with you during a part, we were also curious about what it was going to look like inside. And we had driven by it  for many years, for me as a child growing up in Tampa, this was my marker. This building. We went to siesta key every summer for two weeks.
And my brother and I in the backseat of the station wagon. No. Why 75? Okay. Us 41 all the way, baby. Are we almost there at that thing to my mother and father? Yeah. But we knew for sure they weren't lying anymore. When we saw we were almost as CST. Okay. , I'm totally choked up thinking about this , but the fact that the building became an art object, that became a marker for you in a marker of hope.
We're almost there. And now, , as an adult looking back. It becomes this mnemonic for you , we're both getting to childhood memory of like, Oh, yay. We're going to the family beach vacation in theory. It is that marker. Oh, that's cool portal, right? Portal to the fun. Because when you're a child, you don't understand that the journey is the fun, right?
For the museum, a portal to fund there's a portal to a lot. It's a portal to a lot today right now in the conservatory is the portal to illumination clearly. So there has been paradox from the very beginning. I think that you are a great example of embracing that, especially in pandemic, we can't be together.
What are we going to do? We'll just wait. I love that. And here we are. So I want to talk, you've said horse trading. About the future that you have thrown out your three years. I relate to that and tell me what you're planning now. What is on your to do list to get accomplished before the end of this year?
So, Basically. , we had, maybe 15, 17 curatorial projects, some of them, , large exhibition, some of them smaller, some of them projects, et cetera. And basically, , we  had all been laid out and we had to rearrange everything and some things were not possible.
Some things got moved up. some things got moved around and I have to say that was a lot of work and I really want to, Thank, Christa Molinaro, who is our exhibitions manager who serves as the registrar. The archivist does all the shipping logistics, insurance. , she's amazing. and we managed to 
figure out the new schedule and have it fall into place, which was wonderful. And I'm actually thrilled about it.  so , we're good there. I think this fall, , we had really no illusions about this since March. It's like, look, nothing's going to be even quasi normal until there's a vaccine.
That's just the reality. , this thing, we can't control it. , we can shape it's impacted. I think we probably need to do much better job of that. but. know what viruses do we know how they travel, et cetera. So , let's be realistic about our expectations.
So we knew we weren't going to reopen until the fall. , we knew that in,  March, and we needed the time to  reevaluate and, took that time. And then when it came to, educational programming and public programming where we've got limited events this fall we've,  done much more digitally.
We've put more on our website. We've done all the normal things that everyone is doing, but we're, doing a slightly different model. , we're going to do movies out on the lawn.  it's interesting because we had planned this fall anyway to activate our exterior spaces.
And they're more important than ever. I think if there's one thing that we have now is everyone has a greater appreciation for their local public park. So the public park aspect of the museum campus is,  a really great thing to have. we're not using the auditorium, it's just too dense of a space.
You can't physically distance there, but we are doing on planner programming and we're going to have, , talks on the Plaza and you can, a bite to eat, listen to an art history lecture, et cetera. And I think that  we're really,  slowing down, I have to tell you a wonderful story.
another one of those gifts that keeps on giving in, the previous institution and in  MOCA Tucson, we did an exhibition of, Livia Maceys collection, which was largely minimalist work of varying generations. And, I remember a young boy. He was about nine years old, came in with his mom.
And I took note because I had been walking through the galleries. , on the way from here to there. And they had been there a very long time and , it's not a large institution, but they had really spent a lot of time. And, on his way out, he had turned to his mom and said, , mom, when there's less to look at you look more carefully.
Right. , talk about one of the most profound things I've ever learned about art. So I,  credit this,  young boy for giving us all that gift. , you mentioned it earlier slow. I think , the gift of this time is to slow down and, think a little bit more mindfully and look a little bit more carefully.
we don't have the frenzy of, , three events a week. but it's allowing us to go a little bit deeper, which I think is very much what we need because , with communications technology, we just Corinne across the surface of everything all the time and the pace of that. And it does not allow any depth, any thought, any mindfulness and, this place and museums like this, I think are.
More necessary than ever. Right now I mentioned the woman who came in the other day and said, this is a no waste. Oh yes.  it's been really wonderful since we've been reopened. Everyone's sense of gratitude is just so profound. , people are just. Thank you. Thank you.
I need this now more than ever. , we always feel like this is a public service, . But this is really something that's needed right now. And we've got a wonderful, meditation, sacred Grove garden going in with the next exhibition with Carl Abbott. I think that's going to be a really wonderful, sacred time.
Yeah. So I think, really we're,  very fortunate to have this site, that affords space and time, for all of us to kind of slow down and calm. I am loving it. And what's happened to me is I have no idea how long we've been talking.  I feel like it doesn't really matter. , there's a transparent, endless stream of days like Sylvia Plath that sorta hung her up about suburban life.
But it could be said about pandemic in this, the color, the spaces, the inside, the outside. It's not the walls that we look at in our office or our home. And it has been a treat to be here just physically. So I tell our listeners to treat themselves and make sure that they. Make the pilgrimage to this Oasis here on 41, in Sarasota on your way to see us to keep perhaps to have dinner, which is a nice segue for our rapid fire questions.
 These questions are either, or sometimes we need a short answer and I'm going to kind of put you on the spot, but also,   they're not focused at all. So this will mirror the conversation maybe that we just had. So go on this journey with me.
Dry heat or moist heat, both. Ooh, I like that. Cacti or Palm trees. Yes. I knew this was going to be fun with you. Speak well or write, well, clearly both concept or process. Oh, come on. Yes, this wasn't a trick. I swear. Influence or power. Oh influence for sure. I knew we'd get to one lunch spot to wow. A visiting artist, the new Veestro Sarah's at our art museum in college.
Hello. I'm agreeing with that right now. Having just seen it for the first time today. Dinner spot to have an actual conversation. Oh, a picnic in the park. Ooh, that's a good choice. Where would you pick up the food or would you make it yourself?  that's a great question. are you asking me what my favorite restaurants in town are, and I'm not supposed to play favorites?
I trained as a professional chef in Paris and I love to cook, so I would probably pack that picnic myself. I like that, you know, that feels more personal. I would deviate. I joke that  cooking school taught me how to make movies and making movies taught me how to build museums. And it is true. It's all about, Nissan plus and a process.
So I love that. That's a pretty direct timeline on that. I like that two hours of restful sleep extra per night or an extra $5,000 a month.
I just said the other day sleep is my mother valuable commodity. So you're really stumping me on this because who would say no to an extra five grand, right. I think sleep is deeply underrated in our society. And I appreciate some people who need less of it. I just really need my sleep. So yeah, I think we, I feel you're on the same page.
That's a tough one. That's a very tough one by design. Well, here's the thing, , the cognitive damage that happens when you don't get enough sleep, you can't buy that back. So I would have to say, it's gotta be this. And science tells us we can't make it up either. We have to get it in the moment.
Like, yeah. Curiosity and verification, right? We're going to asleep on that one. Opera or theater. Wow. Okay. This is so mean. This is like, my daughter does not mean I'm teasing. You're just so both. my husband's son, James, and my daughter loved to torture me with, would you rather, and they're just impossible, right?
you know what, here's the thing. I love everything. , is a good theater. Or bad theater is a good opera , a bad opera, , whichever performance is better is the one I want. Yeah, I'll go with that same thing with you and objects. Yeah, absolutely. So feel that thread moving through Curry favor or respect, respect for sure.
Style or substance, substance, okay. So form follows function.  if it's good, it's stylish. It's like it has style. Like these are not, Oh yeah. I know. I'll go faster. I know. I love it. I love it. But you're getting to the crux of, , when something is really true substantive, it's going to the stylish.
It just is. So I,  agree with you, but it's interesting to see how you answer these questions. A word, you use too much super, like, I'm super excited for that. I apparently I used super all the time. there are a lot of them just go with soup. Okay. We'll go. That's super. But I know I don't, I never say super, like it's like, I am super excited and I only know that because other people, like we know you're super excited, you know, you don't even realize what you do until someone.
Yeah. Reflects it back to you. Right? How many masks would you say you own?  I don't know, not that many. , I bought big packs of the N 95 and then the regular sort of  thinner one, whatever we call that one, I did just yesterday by four more, from the shop I was going to say from the show, Oh my God. It's I have a couple, I have some really nice ones that I just keep reusing, right?
Yeah. So again, quality. Yeah. Right. Don't need to lie. You just need them to be good. I've got like, , black, white, and green silk version for  nicer outfits. And then I've got sort of the fun cotton ones. I've got the solid, yeah, I've got probably five or six that I rotate. With the cloth ones, the disposable.
but yeah, definitely a quality over quantity for sure. But you kind of have to have enough cause you need one car and you do because you can't be caught without it. So literally can't be caught dead without it. Mission or motto. Oh, mission for sure. Motto spills out of mission. Mission is. Everything mission is the North star mission drives everything.
And , we talk about this all the time. I feel like if everyone in your institution, in your community,  everyone at any level, , custodial to CEO, if they understand and have absorbed mission, everyone can make good decisions in the field. Everything is clear. There is nothing. In question, if you go back to the core mission, It's always crystal clear.
I agree. And the worker project really helped me visually understand what your mission was going to be as a leader. So that answer doesn't surprise me supper club or speakeasy. Well, you're talking to the Wisconsin girl here, so suffer club, for sure. In fact, one of my favorite art objects in the world is that the red stear in Managua, Wisconsin, it's the most beautiful fireplace made of, flat, stones from Lake superior.
And I hear it's going to be , torn down soon. So I might go chain myself to the building. It's exquisite, yeah, suffer club for sure. It doesn't love speakeasy. Okay. Okay. Both pumpkin or peppermint. we're gonna hear it neither on that one. So, sorry. I know it's that time of year. Oh, don't even get me started.
 Not a fan of either one. ,  that's we all have to define ourselves and I get it  you are taking a day trip to st. Petersburg and it gets you out of town here just a second, the Dali museum or the museum of fine arts. I've never not done both. So how could I possibly yeah. Yeah. What would you do afterward? I would no doubt eat looking at art.
Makes me very hungry. Have you been to the new pier? No. Okay. That's something I have not either.  it's been a little too crowded,  I know if I can't get a parking spot, I probably don't want to walk out there, but I'm very much looking forward to that. It seems awesome. Yeah. , Oh, 
what about, Liz dim new project? Yes, that is my number one spot. So. Yeah. That's where you would had agreed. And you could do that all in one day, which is, you know, but why not spend the night and make a weekend of it? Agreed. Would you spend the night in downtown or on the beach? Ooh, that's a tough one.
I do love nothing more than when the blue meets the blue and then you, I would probably go beach  yeah, I gotcha. I feel the same way. If you could add anything to the artistic landscape, what is Suncoast culture missing?
It could be anything.
 Okay.  I will tell you it's not a single thing. but I would say that we haven't quite achieved. A balanced ecosystem. So for example, we need more galleries. We need art press. We need alternative art spaces. We need more collectors. We need , a healthy ecosystem. You've got artists, institutions, the Academy historians, Scrappy alternative art spaces, museums, that you've got to have all the different pieces and art press, et cetera.
So I think it's more fleshing out the things that are already there, and getting a nice balanced ecosystem. Right. I would agree. 
 I have a visualization to end us, but this'll be my last question. That you want to answer both to
you get a super power or you get to book your dream artist here at the museum, which do you choose? Well, that's totally easy. If I have the superpower, I book any artists we want totally going to super power undetermined, super undetermined, super power. Yes. I w okay, so I have to name the superpower. Yeah.
wow. You know, I mean to use this opportunity, we always talk about empathy. And, lately I've been thinking a lot about perspective. Versus empathy. And I think that empathy can be very misleading. and I've always said  forever, , art cultivates empathy, but I'm feeling like empathy, you know, look at us, we're incredibly privileged, right?
People are like, how are you? And it's like, well, you know, I'm not a starving child. I'm not living in a war zone. I'm not in a refugee camp with,  COVID-19, my rent is covered. My rent is covered. I have a job. Right. So it's like, Knowledge of someone else's suffering. Might make you feel empathetic, but it's not  real.
, I'm a woman and I understand what it means to be discriminated against as a woman. But I certainly don't know what it means to be discriminated against as a person of color and a woman. And so yeah, feeling like empathy, might've taken us to the wrong place and, , given us a sense that, Oh, we understand. So I've been thinking a lot about perspective, like real perspective, really. I mean, that would be a super power to really have the vision. To really see, and to see outside of our narrow myopic space. And I think that maybe we want to focus on expanding our view, true perspective, opening your mind or whatever phrase you want to use.
And that might be the potential superpower in all of us. And I hope that a place like this can help. Give us perspective, and I'm willing to bet that the artists you chose would help us with that task. Indeed. The Metta to that, all of that. So my meditation for you, and I'm going to change it a little bit on the spot.
It's Friday, it's an imaginary Friday. It's Friday for us. When we're recording the weather's beautiful. You're at a place on the waterfront. You're having a libation, whether it's cold or hot, we know it's not pumpkin or peppermint. The sun is setting and you're celebrating, being alive. What else is going on in your mind?
I was going to ask you, where were you, but you're probably not going to tell me where you are. I'm with my husband or with your husband. That's all that matters. So I don't get to see as often as I would like the sun is setting. Yeah. So tell me, you're probably taking a moment to relax. You're with your husband.
What are you thinking? Well, I'm,  gazing adoringly into his blue eyes, which match the sea and the sky. And , I'm not getting, because we don't actually get to live together right now because of our jobs. So I think the thing I long for most in the world right now is my husband present presence.
Yep. Presence and absence, or totally working these things out together. So for those of us who want to be present for you, Moving forward and support the efforts of the Ringling college of art and design and the museum campus here. We're going to ask you to tell us if there's a specific way that we could do that now in the future, or if you've got any programming you want us to know about right now.
Well, the first thing, is just come here. I think that what's been interesting to us is, I invite everyone to come and experience this and people have come here and then they've had extraordinary ideas about, , where to go from there. first up just. Get down here, check it out, obviously.
Yay. Do a membership shop in the store, tell all your friends, et cetera. but I think , I just want to invite everyone to come and experience this and then let us know what you think. Just show up, right? Yeah. And I can report that it's very safe here. Ann Marie and I, before even the interview, we discussed that we go a little bit beyond the protocols that are set forth in that is the practice throughout the building.
And I'm not going to give anything away, but I want  you to see for yourself the style with which they accomplish, setting parameters for social distancing. So you'll just have to come and see those for yourself. Just like every object. This building, this place will not reveal  itself.
Until you see it in person, any last words of wisdom  for up and coming, people who want to get into this crazy cultural business of ours. you're talking about another podcast. my final parting word. Sentiment is just gratitude, to you, to everyone, to the founders, to the college, to everyone who works here, everyone who comes here, we opened this museum and Sarasota and the visitors  embraced.
in open arms, big hug, , this place was built with love and it just is exuding love. And so we just feel a lot of gratitude around here all the time. so thank you. You can fail anyone. . And thanks for your time. Thanks for sitting down with us and for sharing this conversation with us.
And again, welcome to the club. Thank you so much. This has been fun. It sure has to be continued to be continued.