July 25, 2024


Art Shines Through

After leading 2 Wichita museums Patricia McDonnell to retire

When Patricia McDonnell was employed to direct the Ulrich Museum of Artwork at Wichita Condition University in 2007, it marked two firsts: the very first museum directorship job for McDonnell and the initially time the WSU museum would have a woman at the helm.

Yet another initially would arrive later on.

When McDonnell was courted and hired to guide the Wichita Artwork Museum in 2012, she grew to become the first human being to have led two of Wichita’s important art museums.

In June, McDonnell is retiring as the WAM director to concentrate on producing a national exhibition and catalogue on Marsden Hartley, an American modern painter whose function she specializes in, and her rather new marriage to a fellow artistic, Kansas photographer Larry Schwarm.

Her substitute — Anne Kraybill, the director and CEO of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, Pennsylvania — was named on Tuesday. Kraybill’s very first working day on the career will be Aug. 15.

At both of those museums, McDonnell has experienced a considerable impact in fundraising, museum attendance and programming, and has remaining them superior than when she first arrived — the two driving the scenes and in noticeable techniques — say supporters and museum officials.

At the Ulrich, she aided conserve a single of the museum’s significant artwork holdings— the monumental “Personnages Oiseaux” mural by surrealist artist Joan Miro that was practically slipping apart.

”It was in sad shape and she led the cost for organizing the fundraising and performing the the greater part and it’s possible all of the fundraising. It was a $3.5 million challenge, so that’s no little feat,” said Rodney Miller, dean of WSU’s Higher education of Wonderful Arts, who built the last decision to hire McDonnell and provide her to Wichita.

Powering the scenes, she ensured the museum’s collection would continue being risk-free by overseeing the set up of a weather-managed setting.

At WAM, McDonnell oversaw the installation of an 8-acre $3.3 million Art Garden that extended the museum outdoor, allowing visitors to see absolutely free art each and every working day, and virtually $3 million in renovations of inside areas and other infrastructure.

WAM’s collection also grew by just one-third, and by way of McDonnell’s in depth connections, the museum has brought in major exhibitions, including “Monet to Matisse” in 2018, “Georgia O’Keefe: Artwork, Picture and Style” in 2019 and “American Art Deco,” which closes Could 29.

McDonnell’s retirement date from WAM is June 10, two months just before the museum celebrates a commissioned sculpture that was a short while ago put in in the lobby. McDonnell calls the fee and installation of Beth Lipman’s Living Background sculpture one particular of her long lasting achievements at WAM.

Her supporters see it the exact way.

It is almost certainly fitting then that the sculpture looms big and spectacular — measuring 14 toes by 8 ft by 10 toes, even larger than the next-ground Dale Chihuly excellent glass sculpture — to greet site visitors in the lobby. It is lit at night time, attracting notice to the museum by way of the glass lobby partitions, substantially like McDonnell has assisted entice notice and recognition to WAM in her ten years there and to the Ulrich 5 years right before that.

Numbers lately released by WAM back again up the impact McDonnell has experienced. All through her 10-12 months tenure, attendance has elevated by extra than 60%, public programming has developed by 100%, membership rose by 140%, annual reward income doubled and very long-time period assets amplified by $9 million.

Placing persons to start with

It was a basic statement that came at the stop of just about an hour-lengthy interview but it helped summarize how McDonnell has managed to make this sort of an affect at the two museums. “Being a director, you’d feel I set art 1st, but I set individuals initially,” claimed McDonnell.

Miller thinks which is why she helped elevate the two museums’ stature in the local community, not just among the artists and patrons, but day to day residents too.

“From the get-go, Patricia has been excellent at networking with the Wichita local community,” Miller reported. At the Ulrich, she produced its Salon Circle, a membership team that delivers in what the Ulrich phone calls “art entire world insiders” from all about.

A single of the initial improvements McDonnell produced when turning into WAM’s director in 2012 was to let the museum to come to be a rental location for weddings. It was not about the funds WAM could make, but alternatively the making of content memories, she mentioned.

“Think about this. You have a pair and their family members producing life span recollections at the artwork museum. And you also have Uncle Fred, your neighbors down the street and a entire range of folks who’ve never been to the museum — or they haven’t been to the artwork museum considering that their first-quality grade field excursion and they now rediscover the artwork museum mainly because they came to this wedding,” she said.

She encouraged her staff members to believe of ways to associate with other community teams to support draw more folks and also aid the community artist neighborhood.

For case in point, in late 2020 and to celebrate the museum’s 85th anniversary, WAM place alongside one another its “Foot in the Door” exhibition that invited everyone dwelling in the Wichita space to post a 12-by-12-inch canvas of artwork for display.

Other attempts led to the museum’s well-liked Art Chatter programs that highlight artists in different mediums and a partnership with the Tallgrass Movie Competition to display a movie outside.

Martha Linsner, president of The Trust Company of Kansas and chair of WAM’s board of trustees, and Mike Michaelis, chair of Emprise Bank’s board of administrators and co-operator of the Rueben Sanders Gallery, both of those praised McDonnell’s efforts in supporting local artists and discovering ways to have interaction them.

Phrase has spread about WAM being open to partnerships and now teams strategy the museum.

As the museum was enterprise and placing into writing quite a few techniques addressing variety and inclusion in the wake of the George Floyd protests, the Ponder This spoken-word collaborative in Wichita approached WAM about some programming partnerships. The spoken-phrase art kind was an crucial aspect of the Harlem Renaissance.

For McDonnell, that request was significantly meaningful. She and Linsner, the WAM board chair, cite the diversion and inclusion policy as a further of McDonnell’s lasting legacies.

Component of McDonnell’s philosophy that producing memorable activities at museums sales opportunities to greater awareness can be located in her personal track record.

A all-natural enthusiasm

In the modern Eagle job interview, McDonnell talked about reports that display persons tend to do points in their life that they’re common with.

For her, that was museums.

She grew up in a family members that moved and traveled generally, in big element since of her father’s vocation as an English professor. They lived two times in Europe in advance of she graduated from high faculty.

“My passion for artwork developed normally considering the fact that quite early in existence I was uncovered to art,” McDonnell, 66, said.

She described a visit to the Lenbachhaus Museum in Munich, Germany, as her “strongest out-of-entire body experience” with art. A teenager at the time, she uncovered the museum’s popular assortment of a group of expressionist painters named The Blue Rider, well-liked around 1911, to be “moving, radical and neat.”

Her enthusiasm for art led to a doctorate from Brown College in artwork and art heritage, right after paying out 9 decades in southern California building a museum management govt instruction application she started. The method is now funded by the Getty Foundation and housed with Claremont Graduate College.

After Brown College, McDonnell served as a fellow at the Smithsonian’s Hirshorn Museum for three decades, put in 11 decades as a curator at the Weisman Art Museum at the College of Minnesota and then a 4-year stint at the chief curator of the Tacoma Artwork Museum in Washington. At the latter two, McDonnell attained knowledge acquiring and rising community programming, writing grants and growing fundraising.

Just after obtaining a taste of primary a compact museum at the Ulrich, McDonnell was obtaining completely ready to transfer on.

Michaelis reported he’d noticed the magic McDonnell experienced labored at the Ulrich, where she “turned a nice, but peaceful museum into a hip, hopping, relocating museum with a whole lot of action,” he reported. Michaelis experienced been part of the Ulrich’s board when McDonnell grew to become the director.

“She upped the sport at the Ulrich and designed it an thrilling location. She developed a fantastic team. It was an remarkable position to be and very distinctive than when she arrived.”

Michaelis suspected McDonnell could be completely ready to transfer on and he was suitable, McDonnell confirmed.

When the WAM directorship opened up, numerous men and women in the artwork community felt like Michaelis.

“We desperately wished to continue to keep her. And, she did the same point at the Wichita Artwork Museum. WAM necessary a spark, and she delivered that.”

As a parting gift, in May well the WAM board of trustees voted to bestow McDonnell with the honorary title of emerita director when she retires, only the second time in WAM’s 87-yr background the title has been awarded.