New Leader Takes Over at Harvard Art Museums

July 03, 2016

Shedding Light on Art

Rose Lincoln
Martha Tedeschi

During Martha Tedeschi’s 33-year career at the Art Institute of Chicago, she declined opportunities at other museums and institutions. So when the chance came up to serve as director of the Harvard Art Museums, Ms. Tedeschi was "surprised to find how engaged and interested" she was.

"The idea of starting in an environment that has potential in a lot of ways is exciting and fresh for me," says Ms. Tedeschi, who was most recently the Art Institute’s deputy director of art and research. The two institutions have similarities, including a rich research environment and a commitment to conservation science. But the Harvard Art Museums’ educational setting and potential for developing the next generation of museum leaders drew her in.

Under Thomas W. Lentz, who stepped down as director last year, the Harvard Art Museums completed a major transformation in late 2014. The original 1927 building that housed the Fogg Museum was expanded to encompass Harvard’s Busch-Reisinger and Arthur M. Sackler museums. The architect Renzo Piano designed an overarching structure that encased the three museums in glass to physically and symbolically bring light to the way art exerts influence across disciplines and people.

"It’s a building with a very clear vision built into it," Ms. Tedeschi says. "It brings works of arts from the parts of the collection into dialogue in one space. I saw it as a marvelous possibility for teaching and learning."

Ms. Tedeschi, who expected to start her new job this week, was planning to devote some time to listening to her colleagues and faculty members about Harvard’s strengths, and how it can compete in the areas of modern and contemporary art. Her goals are several: to turn Harvard into a premier training ground for curators, conservators, and leadership; to involve students at the museums through the student advisory board, part-time employment, and other activities; and to foster more diversity in the museum profession.

"One of the reasons I’m so invested in museum training is because I was raised in a very nurturing, growth-oriented environment with so many opportunities," she says. Her career started with a 1982 internship at the Art Institute. She says she can’t think of a better place to share her knowledge and experience with future museum professionals than at Harvard. —Rin-rin Yu

Work as Play

Millersville U.
Barry P. Kornhauser
Four years ago, Millersville University of Pennsylvania hired the award-winning playwright Barry P. Kornhauser to help make the arts accessible to underserved audiences.

He had done that for more than 30 years at Fulton Theatre, in nearby Lancaster, Pa. Now Millersville wanted him to continue his work at the public university. The goal was to help people with disabilities, children from underprivileged families, at-risk youths, and others express themselves through art, as well as to expose young people to opportunities at the university.

As assistant director of campus and community engagement at the university’s Ware and Winter Centers, Mr. Kornhauser has run more than a dozen theater and arts-learning programs. The university’s students, especially those majoring in social work, education, music, and the arts, assist him with teaching and activities for many of those programs.

M-Uth Theater, Millersville’s version of a program that Mr. Kornhauser directed at the Fulton for more than 25 years under the name Youtheatre, allows disadvantaged youths — many of whom are homeless or in juvenile detention — to write and perform. In May a former Youtheatre participant became the first graduate of Millersville’s major in career and life studies for students with intellectual disabilities.

In addition to his work with the underserved, Mr. Kornhauser has written 40 plays commissioned by theaters nationwide. In 2014 he was honored with the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America’s Orlin Corey Medallion — the highest award in children’s theater.

One of his children’s plays, Balloonacy, received an unexpected recognition: a letter of appreciation from a father who saw the play with his autistic son at Dallas Children’s Theater. The theater turned the father’s observations into an animated video review that it posted to YouTube in April.

Intended to reach deaf and non-­English-­speaking preschoolers, Balloonacy is a wordless account of an old man and a balloon that floats into his life and won’t let him alone.

Troy Camplin, a writing consultant and the father of the autistic boy, wrote in the video review’s narration that the play broke through to his son and helped him feel empathy, which can be difficult for some autistic children. His son identified first with an object in the play, the balloon, and was then able to transfer that empathy to the old man who mourned the balloon’s loss after it popped.

Mr. Kornhauser says he was touched by the video tribute. He hopes to further "the notion that disabilities can be a catalyst to creativity — not an obstacle," he says. "Arts can be a great tool for social justice." —Kate Stoltzfus

37 Years on the Hudson

Matt Gillis
Dennis J. Murray
To honor Dennis J. Murray, who ended his 37-year presidency at Marist College last month, a student singing group commissioned and performed a song that describes the joy of taking "that long view down the river."

The Marist campus, on the Hudson River, looks a lot different from when Mr. Murray arrived in 1979. It has many more students, academic buildings, and student townhouses and residence halls.

"It’s most satisfying," Mr. Murray says, "when alumni come back and marvel at the buildings and the reorientation of the campus to the river."

Other college presidents ask him how he managed to lead one campus for so long without reaching a plateau or getting restless. He says he feels as if he was able to work at three different institutions during those 37 years.

When Mr. Murray began at Marist, it was a small local college with financial and branding challenges. He says it took him 10 years to stabilize it and turn it into a good regional college. In the last 17 years, he says, he has helped develop it from a regional institution to one with national reach and recognition. He also oversaw the development of a branch campus in Florence, Italy.

By 2014 more than half of Marist’s students were from out of state. Last year Princeton Review named it one of the 50 "top colleges that create futures."

"It’s been those challenges during those different decades that have kept me here, but kept me challenged," Mr. Murray says.

David Yellen, Mr. Murray’s successor, came to the post from Loyola University Chicago, where he was dean of the law school. In his new role as president emeritus, Mr. Murray will advise the board and Mr. Yellen as needed. —Kirsten Ballard

Diversity Backer to Leave

The chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Jimmy G. Cheek, says he will leave that post to return to the classroom.

Mr. Cheek, who is 69 and has led the university since 2009, said he would remain in office until a successor is found.

This academic year, Mr. Cheek defended the campus’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion when state legislators criticized it for promoting what they said was excessive political correctness at the flagship university.

State lawmakers later withdrew funding from the office, which had been created during Mr. Cheek’s tenure. —Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz

Obituaries: Service-Minded Chief

Earl H. Potter III, president of St. Cloud State University, died in a one-vehicle car accident on June 13. He was 69.

He had led the university since 2007, and was known for his commitment to access, his efforts to curb risky student behaviors, and his work to create stronger ties between St. Cloud State and the surrounding community.

Previously, he was executive vice president and provost at Southern Oregon University, business dean at Eastern Michigan and Lesley Universities, and an administrator at Cornell University and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Ashish K. Vaidya, the university’s provost, is serving as interim president.

Other deaths:

Thomas A. Graves Jr., president of the College of William & Mary from 1971 to 1985, died on June 17. He was 91. During his tenure he opened the Muscarelle Museum of Art, which was created to house valuable artwork that was scattered around campus, after being collected over nearly three centuries. Earlier in his career, Mr. Graves was an associate business dean at Stanford and Harvard Universities.

Robert T. Paine III, a professor emeritus of biology at the University of Washington who influenced the field of ecology, died on June 13. He was 83. Mr. Paine developed the concept that there were predatory "keystone species" whose withdrawal from an environment could have a cascading effect of harm on other species. He served on Washington’s faculty from 1962 to 1998. —Ruth Hammond

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