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Changing of the Garde

Three new aces take the reins at Santa Fe's contemporary art institutions

August 18, 2010, 1:00 am

Name Mary Kershaw

Gig director of the New Mexico Museum of Art since Sept. 2009
Age 48
Place of Birth Philadelphia
Education University of Pennsylvania; University College London, masters in medieval archeology
Celebrity look-alike Kathy Bates
Personal Question Where is your accent from? “It’s a mixture of Philadelphia and Yorkshire.”

SFR: How is the art scene in Santa Fe really perceived from the outside?
MK: Because I come from so far away, there is no conception…about the art scene or even Santa Fe…For me, [it’s] extremely active. I just can’t believe how much is going on here, both culturally and in terms of visual arts. And there’s a terrific range of things going on.
Snob Factor: state fair, everyone’s invited

Choose one of the following to be a guest at a party you throw: President Barack Obama, Lady Gaga or advertising magnate/art collector Charles Saatchi.
I’d have all of them at different parties but, if I could only have one, I think I’d have Charles Saatchi. I think Lady Gaga would demand too much attention, and I like a party to be lots of attention for lots of people. So I think it wouldn’t be a party if you had someone like that. And I think Barack Obama would probably be good fun at a party, but he probably has too much on his mind at the moment to relax and have fun. Charles Saatchi would have interesting conversation and, therefore, I would have an arts party.
Fiesta Footwear: flats with arch support—practical, thought-out, boring

Multiple choice: Your new job is A. something you would have killed to get B. a means to an end C. kind of a favor for a friend D. a breath of fresh air.
I’d have to go with D because you haven’t given me ‘none of the above.’ My new job is fun and adventure is how I would describe it. So I guess a breath of fresh air most closely fits that. I think the collections here are really fantastic; I think they’re an under-utilized resource, both for our museum and community. And I think to have an art museum situated in a vibrant arts community is such an interesting place to be.
Staying Power: ’til retirement

Were you fated for involvement with the arts since the day you were born, drawn by a profound encounter or pulled in by an accident of circumstance?
Pulled in by an accident of circumstance. Because that’s been the progress of my life, accidents of circumstance. So it’s not just working in the arts. My marriage, my education, it’s all been accidents of circumstance. I have been very fortunate.
Messiah Factor: Job

What’s your most embarrassing experience with art?
We were opening a show and it was a retrospective, the first retrospective of this artist who was deceased. We had a VIP tour, and we had a guest happily leading them through. We heard this sound from the back of the gallery, and one of the paintings had fallen off the wall. Now, that may not sound embarrassing to you but, with a group of VIPs in an art museum, it was embarrassing. Luckily, it was undamaged and we could hang it back up.
Privacy Restrictions: strictly professional

What is contemporary art, and why should anyone care?
Contemporary art is, I think A. art being made now and B. speaks to our current situation in some way. Why should anyone care? I think good contemporary art should engage both our aesthetic senses and our intellectual senses and, consequently, it makes us think harder about who were are and what we do and what we might be.
Game Face: Webster’s Dictionary

Where do art and politics meet?
I haven’t really come across the meeting of art and politics so far. I don’t think that’s an issue; I expected it to cross my horizon more quickly.
Fairey Factor: barely Fairey

Where do art and money meet?
Santa Fe [laughs].
Buying Power: Indian Market

Tell us, in a nutshell, why your institution is important to you and what you’re hoping to bring to the table.
There is a really strong sense that people feel that this is an important place, has a historical moment when it was founded, has a wonderful building and a lovely location. Museums are seen as important institutions, but that’s kind of where the consensus ends. The idea of what the museum should become is as varied as the number of people I speak to. So, as director, it’s a really liberating position.
Boilerplate Bonus: 2/10

What’s the ratio of stuff that’s alleged to be art versus stuff that’s any good?
I think there are varieties of good, and there’s obviously the art-world-acknowledged good. There’s something that someone themselves does that may not be superb, but actually enhances their life and that has a goodness about it. So it depends what you mean by good and to what purpose that good is put.
Appetite for Cynicism: distended belly

If you weren’t an arts administrator, you’d probably be…
A lot richer [laughs].
Secret Identity: Richard Branson

What’s the most pressing story in Santa Fe’s news cycle: DWI, overdevelopment, Wi-Fi or corruption?
I sense DWI because that kills people, and it’s a big problem here.
Social Conscious Calibration: PTA

New Mexico Museum of Art

107 W. Palace Ave.
Annual Budget: $1,686,900
Membership: Museum of New Mexico membership more than 9,000
Attendance: 60,109
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