Fill The Steins’ “Summer Session” keeps on keepin’ on through the dog days of summer – and if you’ve been near a newsstand in the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed Maine Magazine’s “50 Mainers” feature – those from our fair state who are making a big-time difference in the ways we live. If you looked a little closer, you’d see that George Kinghorn, Director and Curator of the University of Maine Museum of Art was on that esteemed list. With Summer Session back in class, what better time to take a look back at our FTS Q&A with George!
George Kinghorn became the Director and Curator of the University of Maine Museum of Art in 2008. Since arriving, George has increased traffic to the Museum by more than 250% and expanded the Museum’s educational programming. (I’m no museum expert, but plus-250% is a lot in my world…) Artists from the world-renowned to young, local talent making their names have been a part of George Kinghorn’s UMMA since he came to Harlow Street in Bangor. Oh, did I mention that admission to the Museum is free? (I didn’t?)
Admission to the University of Maine Museum of Art is FREE!
Before joining Black Bear Nation, George was the Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville; he’s been a guest lecturer at universities around the country, and a grant panelist for the Maine Arts Commission. But for now, he’s hanging out with Fill The Steins. Welcome to George Kinghorn!
Fill The Steins: First of all… What brought you to Maine from Jacksonville, Florida? Do you wish you were back there when it’s -5 degrees here?
George Kinghorn: The move to Maine was full of exciting opportunities to redefine and enhance the reach of the University of Maine Museum of Art (UMMA). The goal was to increase awareness of the Museum throughout Maine and New England. We have certainly made great strides in recent years. Personally, I was amazed by Maine’s beauty from Acadia to Baxter State Park. You can really make a difference here and enhance the lives of people through the arts. There’s a nice sense of collaboration that sometimes doesn’t exist in larger cities.
FTS: What’s new and exciting at the UMaine Museum of Art in 2014?
GK: The University of Maine Museum of Art has an array of exciting exhibitions planned in 2014. We will be celebrating the development of the permanent collection in 2014. Kicking this off is a Piranesi to Picasso: Master Prints from the Museum Collection which runs through March 22, 2014. Then in April we feature Looking Back Six Years: Selected New Acquisitions. This exhibition emphasizes the important role that photography plays in the Museum’s collection.
FTS: Can you give us a sense of the physical space that UMMA occupies?
GK: UMMA occupies one floor of 40 Harlow Street and has four distinct galleries, classroom, staff offices, art preparation areas and fine art storage. The space was beautifully renovated when the Museum moved to Bangor over 12 years ago. It’s a perfect setting for modern and contemporary art exhibitions.
FTS: What’s your favorite exhibit that’s been shown at the UMMA?
GK: It’s certainly hard to pick a favorite as the exhibitions are all so different. I would say that Ruth Marshall’s amazing hand knitted pelts delighted out visitors and offered a completely new experience for many.
FTS: What is it that you’re most proud of during your time at the UMMA?
GK: We have changed the culture of the Museum to be more welcoming and inviting. We present an active series of educational offerings for all ages. Through these new education programs, special events and Penobscot Financial Advisors’ generous sponsorship of free admission, our visitation has increased dramatically in recent years. It’s a wonderful period of growth for Bangor and the Museum is pleased to be an active player in the growth of downtown.
FTS: UMMA’s educational programming is a big part of what you do; what sort of opportunities do you have for learning? For kids? For students? Adults?
GK: The Museum has our structured school tour program which is led by our professional Museum Educator Eva Wagner. Our Art at Noon lectures provide visitors and Museum members the opportunity to discuss the exhibitions in an informal manner and hear directly from featured artists. Summer is a busy time at the Museum as we offer art camp for school aged children. It’s so wonderful to have the students here creating art and spending time in the galleries.
FTS: What are the benefits of being associated with an educational institution like UMaine, as an art museum?
GK: As a vital cultural resource of Maine’s flagship land-grant university, we are providing a great service to the citizens of Maine and visitors to the region. We play a role in the educational experience of UMaine students and expand their awareness of the visual arts. This is so important as students follow their career paths and become contributors to their communities.
FTS: Who makes up UMMA’s membership base?
GK: Museum members provide invaluable annual support that allows the Museum to continue to present engaging and dynamic exhibitions and educational programs. We are lucky to have Museum members across the spectrum. It’s wonderful to see a diverse mix of people and ages at our Members’ Preview Receptions held four times each year.
FTS: Maine has its fair share of notable artists. What is it that you think draws artistic folks to our state?
GK: Maine has a rich artistic tradition, from Homer to the Wyeths to Marin. The beauty of the Maine landscape has lured artists to this great State.
Thanks to George Kinghorn for Filling The Steins with us, and showing us around the UMaine art world for a bit!