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Director of WCMA to Leave in June
09:53AM / Thursday, January 27, 2011
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Lisa Corrin
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. —  Lisa Corrin is leaving the Williams College Museum of Art but she won't be going far.

Corrin will step down from her position as Class of 1956 director on June 30 to teach at the college and be both a Clark Fellow at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and as a visiting scholar in museum studies at New York University.

She leaves after setting in motion the ambitious "Reflections on a Museum," a museumwide exploration of hundreds of artworks in its collection that question the nature and perception of art.

Williams President Adam Falk said a national search will begin for her successor.

"In Lisa's six years as director, the museum has made remarkable changes," Falk said in an e-mail sent to campus. "With her able and dedicated staff, she’s carried out a thoughtful plan to refocus museum activities on the college's teaching mission, which includes, among many other initiatives, the first reinstallation of the collection in many years.

“Exhibitions developed under her leadership have gained international recognition for creatively prodding, educating, and challenging viewers. At the same time, she has entrepreneurially drawn new resources to the museum from foundations and other supporters.”

The museum has presented more than 75 exhibitions since Corrin arrived, several of which have traveled nationally and internationally. Exhibitions that took place under her directorship emphasized cross-disciplinary approaches to, and new ways of looking at, art. Among these exhibitions are "Jackson Pollock at Williams College: A Tribute to Kirk Varnedoe '67" (2006); "Making It New: The Art and Style of Sarah and Gerald Murphy" (2007); "Beyond the Familiar: Photography and the Construction of Community" (2008); "Prendergast in Italy" (2009); "Drowned in a Glass of Water: An Installation by Pepón Osorio" (2010); and the current reinstallation of WCMA's permanent collection in 10 galleries.

Corrin has also been overseeing the acquisition of two major public artworks that will be installed this spring at Williams, including a commissioned sculpture by artist Jenny Holzer to be sited in the science quad.

Corrin encouraged collaborations between WCMA and many academic departments on campus to connect with the college and to enrich the context in which art is seen.

Most notable have been "Landscapes of the Mind: Contemporary Artists Contemplate the Brain" (2010), a collaboration with Betty Zimmerberg, chair and professor of psychology, and "The Place of Taste: A Symposium on Food, Culture, and Community," which celebrated the 10th anniversary of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, a collaboration with Darra Goldstein, Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Russian. To strengthen WCMA's relationship with regional institutions, she worked with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the Yale University Art Gallery on "Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective," with the Williamstown Art Conservation Center on Jackson Pollock at Williams College, and with DownStreet Art and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition on Drowned in a Glass of Water, among others.

"Lisa's passion for visionary programming helped maintain a 'buzz' at WCMA, while her insistence on rigorous scholarship steered the museum toward recognition and awards for curatorial excellence," said George  Ahl, chairman of WCMA's visiting committee, the advisory board of the museum.

Under her directorship, WCMA has received funding from major granting institutions, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Corrin has overseen the development of the Fulkerson Fund for Leadership in the Arts, which builds upon Williams’ preeminent role in educating the next generation of leaders in arts professions, and the Mellon Curatorial Fellow for Diversity in the  Arts, which encourages greater diversity in the museum field. She has also championed efforts to digitize WCMA's collection and make it available online for all audiences.

“It’s been an enormous privilege and joy to lead one of the great college art museums,” Corrin said. “Working with our talented students, faculty, alumni, museum staff, our dedicated Visiting Committee, and neighboring arts institutions has been hugely inspiring. I look forward to what lies ahead, but I know that the friends and colleagues who have been part of my Williams experience will always remain part of my life."

Among the local museum leaders with whom she has worked is Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Director Joseph Thompson, who said, “While I'm excited for Lisa and look forward to watching her future projects unfold, we'll miss her in her role at WCMA. As a programming partner in Kidspace and the Sol LeWitt retrospective, she brought great energy and rock solid commitment. The roster of exhibitions that she and her colleagues produced at WCMA  brought thousands of visitors to our doorstep, and critical accolades to our region, and as a board member of Mass MoCA, her contacts and many years of curatorial experience are highly valued.”

Clark Director and former president of the American Association of Museum Directors Michael Conforti said, “Lisa is so energetic and full of ideas. I can think of few of my colleagues with such a subtle understanding and deep commitment to art, artists, and art institutions. I really hope to be able to work with her on projects in the future."

Both globalizing WCMA's collection and teaching were important parts of her time at Williams. She added significant works of art to the collection, from old masters to contemporary photography from Brazil, South Africa, and China. She also mentored students and encouraged them to fully participate in the robust exhibition program.

Before coming to Williams, Corrin was deputy director of the Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum, where, among other projects, she curated the Olympic Sculpture Park. She earlier served as chief curator at the Serpentine Gallery in London, and before that in the same role at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, where she was also a founding assistant director. She has also taught in the Graduate Program in Art History at the University of Washington.

Corrin earned her bachelor's degree from Mary Washington College and studied at University College, London. She did her graduate work at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Johns Hopkins University.

Falk concluded his announcement by saying, “We thank Lisa for  enlivening our cultural and intellectual lives in so many ways and look forward to her continuing contributions, both here and in the broader world."
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