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Monday, Jan. 28, 2013

New Directions at Wisconsin Museum of Art

Talking with Laurie Winters

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After 15 years as the Milwaukee Art Museum’s director of exhibitions and publications and curator of earlier European Art, Laurie Winters has taken two challenging new positions. Last July, Winters announced her departure from MAM and founded The Art Consortium, a nonprofit headquartered in Milwaukee designed to reshape the future of museums and how they collaborate worldwide. Additionally, in November she accepted the directorship of the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend. The Art Consortium's members include directors of the Royal Academy in London, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Asia Society Museum in New York, the Musées de la Ville de Rouen, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art near Copenhagen, the Beyeler Foundation near Basel, the Dallas Museum of Art and other leaders across the world. This past October, more than 50 representatives attended a meeting in Vienna.

 

These ambitious projects seem at opposite ends of the profession. Can you bring them together? 

I love the challenge of working on these two levels. The Art Consortium brings together top leaders among museum directors with thinkers outside the museum profession—cultural economists, neuroscientists, artists, art critics, as well as representatives of the auction houses, private collectors and private foundations. Our discussions focus on innovation and change, which is not typical for gatherings of museum leaders.

 

What are the goals?

The discussions are not about exhibitions or membership issues. They give information and encourage institutions to think differently in reference to technology, for example, moving beyond kiosks in the galleries.

 

How will you apply these ideas to a regional museum in a small city in Wisconsin?

I am excited to work with the people in West Bend to create a vision for using their beautiful new museum building and its collections as a catalyst to establish a great museum of Wisconsin art for people throughout the state. Working with the community and the artists to build an army of well-informed people excited about the future of the museum is the foundation. Keeping the focus on art while making innovative, thoughtful changes, like using technology to improve museum functions.

 

Do you envision changes in the museum’s approach to collecting and exhibitions?

The museum already has an impressive collection of works by historic figures of regional interest. Contemporary artists working in the state and Wisconsin-born artists with international careers such as Edward Curtis, Mark Tobey, Richard Lippold and Georgia O’Keeffe offer possibilities for future exhibitions and collection development.

 

How can regional museums benefit from the international colloquium model?

There is currently a dearth of attention focused on regional museums. Using the initiatives from the Consortium as resources for new ways of thinking in regional museums is one benefit. Another is to use the Colloquium model to create an organization to address the issues central to regional museums. Our West Bend museum with its new facilities is well positioned to jumpstart an association dedicated to regional museums.