The Chazen Museum of Art changed its leadership for the first time in over 30 years.
Previous director, Russell Panczenko, had been the director of the Chazen for over three decades. Now ready for retirement, he passed down the role to Amy Gilman. The position is an intimidating role to have — overseeing all operations, from exhibits, acquisitions to caretaking of the collections. Having a doctorate in art history from Case Western Reserve University, Gilman is an ideal candidate for the position, and Panczenko agrees.
“This lady is highly qualified and very experienced,” Panczenko said. “I think she’s the right person to step into my shoes.”
Stepping out of his long-time position is a bittersweet transition for Panczenko, who has encountered both pleasures and sometimes, a slight lack of enjoyment. While having a position in a field that you love is gratifying, the tedious administrative jobs have become tiring. Having trade-offs just comes with the territory, Panczenko said.
The museum has seen improvements during Panczenko’s time as director. In the past years, the collection hasn’t just increased slightly, it’s more than doubled. No doubt helped by the construction of the new building.
Even though Panczenko will no longer be on site, he will always have the Chazen in his mind and in his heart. He said he looks forward to seeing an expansion in scholarly thinking. With the larger collection, the possibilities for this seem to be endless. The collection should be studied, information should be published and bridges should be built with other museum curators. In terms of research, there are huge possibilities for growth, Panczenko said.
The Chazen won’t be the only thought floating around Panczenko’s mind. Art will still be his passion, and so will follow him every where. Now with more free time, Panczenko will be able to put more time into his own photography work.
“At this point, I’m going to have a lot more time to spend with my camera and learning to work with it and do what I like to do,” Panczenko said. “So suddenly I’ve got a lot of time to myself, which I’m happy about.”
As for the new director, she’s been busy planning her arrival to the Chazen and moving to Madison. Her new position began on September 11. An important part of her new role will include community outreach and strengthening the bond between the Chazen and the outside community, at both the campus and city level.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do to really continue to engage the student body, the faculty and the community even more,” Gilman said. “Everyone is invited to an ice cream social on the first Saturday of my time at the Chazen from 1-3 p.m. where I hope to meet a lot of people.”
Connecting with the community is an important step to take before implementing new programs at the museum, Gilman said. She plans to take a step back, learn about the people of Madison and listen to what individuals have to say.
Gilman also plans to support Madison’s art scene outside of the Chazen. A goal of hers is to stay informed about the local campus life. She and her family also plan on attending local gallery events and exhibit openings.
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Staying well informed and introducing herself to the people of Madison will aid in the transition period as she takes on her new role, but problems are bound to occur. But these situations shouldn’t be looked at as a bad thing, Gilman said.
“Any point in which you have a leadership transition… it is going to cause some differences,” said Gilman. “…that’s going to be the most significant issue that I’ll be working through. Not because it’s necessarily bad, but because it’s the reality of the situation.”
The transition shouldn’t be a source of anxiety for lovers of the Chazen. Even though she hasn’t completed an art project of her own since 2000, her experience will guarantee a successful future for the community, the Chazen and the future exhibits to come.
“I quickly discovered I’m a much better museum person than I am an art maker,” Gilman said. “I don’t make work myself, I just appreciate those who do.”