BY SALLY DESKINS, EXHIBITS AND PROGRAMS COORDINATOR, WVU LIBRARIES
What’s GLAM? GLAM stands for galleries-libraries-archives-museums, and, for this series, The Hub is partnering up with Sally Deskins of WVU Libraries to put a spotlight on what happens when groups and institutions related to these collaborate. As Sally says, “Sharing resources can bring in more audiences, and lead to a better course for sustainability amongst all, as opposed to seeing each other competitively and bringing each other down.”
Geoffrey K. Fleming is Executive Director of Huntington Museum of Art (HMA). For this interview, the Long Island, New York native shares about his passion for American art and history, the various collaborative exhibitions and programs at HMA, sharing art amongst art museums and more…
Sally Deskins: Tell me about your background and why you got into what you do.
Geoffrey Fleming: Having always been interested in art and architecture, I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Historic Preservation in 1996 at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va., where I graduated with honors and was awarded the J. Binford Walford Scholarship in Architecture. I earned my Master of Arts in Arts Administration in 1999 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I wrote my thesis titled “Museum Shops: A Study.” Since then I have worked in the museum field, chaired several committees and museum associations, and written over two dozen books on American art and history, with a special focus on my native Long Island, New York.
SD: Tell me about your organization and your role, what you do.
GF: Situated on 52 acres with nature trails, the Huntington Museum of Art is a fine arts museum with a permanent collection of more than 15,000 art objects. HMA is home to the C. Fred Edwards Conservatory of tropical plants and orchids. I am the Executive Director of the Huntington Museum of Art and among my many responsibilities is to ensure the fiscal soundness of HMA and to look for ways to increase our permanent collection and maintain and grow our funding resources, so our organization can continue to offer art, education and nature experiences to the people of Huntington, West Virginia, the Tri-State community and beyond.
SD: So, what are some ways you have or will collaborate with either outside organizations or groups?
GF: As part of our commitment to promoting regional artists, the Huntington Museum of Art works with the Tri-State Arts Association and Allied Artists of West Virginia to present exhibits of work by regional artists. Regional artists are also in the spotlight in “Exhibition 280,” which is our triennial, juried exhibit that is open to artists who are 18 years of age or older and living in West Virginia and the five states that border the Mountain State.
In addition, for years the Huntington Museum of Art has worked with Marshall University in a number of ways. One of our longstanding partnerships is with Marshall University’s College of Arts and Media for the annual presentation of “Portfolio,” which is an exhibit of work by young artists in middle and high schools from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.
In addition, we regularly present solo exhibits by artists who are native to West Virginia (both past and present), which this year will include Brian Michael Reed and Jamie Sloane.
SD: Why is collaborating important to you and your position, and WV as well as society moving forward?
GF: Most nonprofit institutions in our region face financial challenges and it makes sense that if we can work with other nonprofits to everyone’s benefit that we should do so. The Huntington Museum of Art has created a great lending partnership with Ohio University’s Kennedy Museum of Art. We have borrowed art from the Kennedy Museum of Art and loaned some of our permanent collection to them. This has been a tremendously successful partnership as the two museums are close in proximity and our patrons have had the opportunity to see great exhibits because of this exchange program. The most recent exhibit the Huntington Museum of Art has presented due to this partnership is “Hot Can Be Cool: Jazz Portraits by Herman Leonard, which was on view at HMA from June 2 through July 29, 2018. Marshall University was very involved in the presentation of this exhibit and was responsible for bringing Jazz musician Ellis Marsalis to our opening reception for the exhibition.
SD: Any advice or tips for people wanting to collaborate—how do you approach people about it without knowing them? How do you think up such ideas?
GF: When approaching another institution about a possible collaboration, I think it is important to have a plan that will benefit both organizations. When reaching out, let them know that you think both parties will be stronger by working together instead of alone.
In terms of ideas, it is important to visit other institutions to learn about their holdings, so that you can figure out ways that you can help to fill collection gaps at their museum while doing the same at your own. This provides the maximum benefit for both parties.
SD: Anything to add? Hopes for future of WV?
GF: Although I am a New York native, I have made my home in West Virginia for more than three years. I like that there are lots of interesting places and things to do in West Virginia and that we are within short driving distance to other wonderful cities such as Lexington, Louisville, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.
I would like to see more people from outside West Virginia take advantage of all the attractions that the Mountain State has to offer. There are a lot of hardworking people in West Virginia who are doing their best to continue to grow tourism and the arts and I am happy to count myself among them.
For more information on the Huntington Museum of Art, visit https://www.hmoa.org/.
Interested in having your group or initiative featured as a part of GLAM? Email Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org.