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Mills still seeking new art director

The search for a new director for the Mills College Art Museum is back on this fall and according to interim director Provost and Dean of the Faculty Mary-Ann Milford, the College hopes to have someone by the end of the semester.

“For anyone to come here, it’s a very exciting community to be a part of,” Milford said.
Stephan Jost, director since Jan. 2002, left last February after accepting a position at the Shelborne Museum in Vermont. Milford took over right away.

“I have to fill in many odd places, but this one was actually a very good fit,” Milford, an art historian and member of the art department, said. “I spend a part of every day there.”

The search was unsuccessful last spring, although there were many strong candidates.

“Not one was exactly what we needed for Mills,” Milford said. “No one had strength in all of the areas we were interested in.”

The College is interested is someone who has strong curatorial experience, strong archival and object management skills and knows the contemporary art world well. They would like the person to have a graduate degree in the arts and have worked in a museum before.

“We want someone who will do it all, and that’s not realistic,” Milford said. “We are going to look at the strengths of the candidate. People can learn new skills too.”

Part of the responsibilities of the art museum director is teaching a museum studies course during the spring semester.

“This is a course that is focused on freshwomen and sophomores so they can use their knowledge from the course in the museum,” Milford said. “We have had some very successful exhibitions come out of the class.”

An academic museum, like the one at Mills, can have advantages over a larger museum, despite the smaller staff.

“I think it gives the director more flexibility,” Milford said. “An academic museum doesn’t have the advisory board that has their own agenda. An academic museum can be more experimental. They can take more risks.”

The new director will be very involved with the planning and construction of a new building for the art department.

“They will be the person seeing this come to fruition while they’re here,” Milford said. “It’s important that it start under the new director. They will probably have a few opinions. That’s the privilege of the incoming director.”

The building will have two stories. On the first floor will be faculty offices and about 10 studios for graduate students.

“Our graduate program is very unique. Each graduate student has an individual private studio allowing them to concentrate on their own work,” professor Hung Liu said. “They all love their studio space. We don’t want to have to put two in a studio. It’s just like having a roommate, you want to have your own room, right?”

The second floor will contain small galleries where parts of the permanent collection can be shown. Mills art students can have their own exhibits, including for technology based art, which they have had trouble showing in the main gallery. The expanded exhibit space will also allow for a major exhibit in the main gallery while still having other things going on.

“It’s not just a one stop shop. People will be able to explore and turn corners and be surprised,” Milford said.

The idea was formed three years ago and is still a work in progress. Nothing is positive yet.

“I think it’s a great idea,” freshwoman Chibo Shinagawa, who works in the art museum, said. “I think Mills should provide more resources for those majoring in art or care about looking at different kinds of art.”

A sculpture garden is planned between the new building and the existing museum. It will provide space for pieces from Mills’ permanent collection.

“We’ve got some really beautiful pieces,” Milford said.

The mission of the art museum was recently rewritten to reflect the Mills mission dedication to women.

“We thought it was very important to honor women in art,” Milford said. “That’s what Mills is all about.”