Cornered: John R. Stomberg

John Stomberg at Hood Downtown during the opening reception for Julie Blackmon’s “The Everyday Fantastic” exhibition (photograph by Rob Strong).




By Marguerite Serkin

John Stomberg was appointed the first Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in January of 2016. A specialist in American and European modernist art, Stomberg’s experience includes directorships at the Mount Holyoke Art Museum and the Williams College Museum of Art.

The Hood has one of the oldest and largest collections of art and artifacts in the United States, dating to 1772. The museum annually organizes more than 150 programs for col- lege, public and regional school audiences.

Artscope’s Marguerite Serkin interviewed Stomberg for some candid thoughts about the reopening of the museum following extensive renovations, and the special qualities of working with a teaching museum of international prominence.

MARGUERITE SERKIN: The Hood is undergoing a major expansion. How will the new venue better serve the museum’s curatorial needs and allow for additional exhibitions and events?

JOHN R. STOMBERG: The new Hood will include several areas of dramatic improvement. First, the entrance will be very clear, inviting, and easy to find from the middle of Hanover. There will be a large atrium area that joins the museum with the Hopkins Center that can be used by students, faculty, and general visitors to relax and enjoy — this will also be a spectacu- lar events space. We are adding an entire center of teaching galleries for the cur- ricular use of college faculty. And, most noticeably, we are adding six new galleries and completely renovating all the others, so we will have 50 percent more space to display art.

MS: What is the projected timeframe for the reopening of the museum?
JS: We anticipate being open by very early 2019.

MS: During the expansion, the Hood Museum has opened a gallery space in downtown Hanover, the Hood

Downtown. Has public engagement with the gallery been robust, and are there plans to keep the Hood Downtown open when the Museum has reopened?
JS: The public response to our Hood Downtown shows has been remarkable. We are on track to post 2017 attendance figures at about 60 percent of that for 2015 when we had the full museum up and running. A large part of this suc- cess has been our continued teaching work with the college and with area schools, but we have found the “on the street” location to be very inviting. When the new Hood is open, the Downtown space will be returned to retail use — the Museum proper will offer everything we need.

MS: How has your previous experience as director of Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, and of the Williams College Museum of Art, informed your role at the Hood? JS: My career has been fully occupied in the teaching museum field. In many ways, working at the Hood is the summation of my professional training, which started at the Boston University Art Galleries (BUAG) over 20 years ago. BUAG was not a collecting institution, however, and I was eager to work with a permanent collection. I moved to Williams College Museum of Art, and there my first major project was to convert a public gallery into a study gallery. Over nearly a decade there, I learned first-hand the advantages of a robust collection. At Mount Holyoke I was able to work with an even larger and more diverse collection that also included an American material culture museum. Now, I am hon- ored to have over 65,000 objects from which to select as we plan the reinstalled galleries for the new building.

MS: Regarding public engage- ment – in what ways does the Hood Museum cater to younger visitors and students which dif- fer from traditional program- ming at other institutions?

JS: The exhibitions at the Hood feature art that is very much con- temporary, and this is often an area that gets the most attention from younger audiences. With a decided focus on global contem- porary, and six dedicated galler-

ies, the new Hood will be attractive to anyone engaged with current culture worldwide.

The Hood also has a well- deserved reputation as a leading teaching museum — that is, we focus on using our collections in the context of classes that range from art history to climatology. We will soon have three new teaching galleries in addition to the space we have long used for that pur- pose. We also do a lot of extra- and co-curricular activities that range from mini-collecting courses to sip-and-sketch events. The new atrium will be available to cam- pus use as well, making it possible for performance clubs — such as poetry and Shakespeare — to use the Hood for public presentations.

MS: The Hood has provided a workshop for liberal arts stu- dents to foster their apprecia-

tion and creation of visual arts. Who are some of the notable alumni who have gone on to careers related to their field of study?

JS: Dartmouth has been particu- larly strong in launching curators and some directors. These include: Maxwell Anderson, former director, Dallas Museum of Art Timothy A. Burgard, Ednah Root Curator-in-Charge of American Art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Helen Burnham, Pamela and Peter Voss Curator of Prints and Drawings, MFA Boston Megan Fontanella, Curator, Modern Art and Provenance, Guggenheim

Amelia Kahl, Associate Curator of Academic Programming, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College Maggie Newey, Associate Director for Academic Programs

and Public Education, Smith College Museum of Art
Larry Nichols, William Hutton Senior Curator of European and American Painting Before 1900, Toledo Museum of Art

Amanda Potter, Curator of Education and Interpretation, Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University

George T.M. Shackelford, Senior Deputy Director, Kimbell Art Museum
Sarah Suzuki, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, MoMA

(For a complete rundown of Hood Museum of Art exhibitions and programs, visit hoodmuseum.dart-

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