Interview: Elizabeth Dunbar: On Becoming Associate Director at Arthouse
by Claire Ruud
This week, Arthouse announced the promotion of Elizabeth Dunbar to the position of Associate Director and Curator. Upon hearing the good news, ...might be good caught up with Dunbar to find out what this means for her and for the organization.
...might be good [mbg]: So, you’ve been promoted to the position of Associate Director and Curator. What does this mean in practical terms on the level of day-to-day business?
Elizabeth Dunbar [ED]: As I can already attest, it means that I’ll be in many more meetings! Seriously, though, it really means that I’m much more involved in the daily operations of Arthouse and working even more closely with Executive Director Sue Graze on planning for the future. I’m taking a more active role in budgetary and development matters, working with our Board of Directors, supervising staff, along with a plethora of other activities. By assuming these additional responsibilities, I’m helping to free up some of Sue’s time so she can focus on getting Arthouse’s amazing new space finished and begin implementing our new five year strategic plan.
mbg: Will you be taking a step back from some of your curatorial duties?
ED: I will continue to oversee all of Arthouse’s exhibitions and public programs, and will still organize the majority of our in-house exhibitions. That said, because our exhibitions program will more than triple in our new space, we already have plans in place to increase staff in the curatorial department, invite guest curators to organize exhibitions on occasion and bring in special traveling exhibitions. Not only will these steps help ease the demands on my time and curatorial brainpower, they will also strengthen the diversity of our overall curatorial voice as an institution. It’s good to mix it up!
mbg: When you joined Arthouse two and a half years ago, you were its first full-time curator. Aside from groundbreaking on the major renovations, what have been the biggest changes you’ve been a part of at Arthouse?
ED: I’m really proud of what Arthouse has accomplished in the last few years—we are really growing up as an institution. And with a new building and amped up programming soon to be unveiled, I think we are strategically poised to become a major contender in the international art world. There are a few major institutional changes that I have been involved with which I feel have been really significant for Arthouse: expanding our exhibitions program to include working with international artists (often giving them their first US solo shows), adding a focus on commissioning artists to create new works or site-specific projects and instituting new programs (like our visiting lecturer/studio visits program) that benefit area artists.
mbg: What challenges are you looking forward to as Associate Director?
ED: Obviously I’m looking forward to opening our new space and kicking off our expanded exhibition and public programs. Following that, I think one of the biggest challenges facing me—and one that acknowledges my dual roles as administrator and curator—is how to help Arthouse evolve into a larger organization without losing our creative edge or compromising our commitment to risk-taking.
mbg: On a different note, you just got back from Miami, where you presented Okay Mountain with great success. I know you must have been busy there, but did the fairs put any new (or old) artists on your radar?
ED: Art fairs are always overwhelming for me, especially when there are so many going on at the same time. My head is usually swirling by the time I get back home, and it takes a few months for me to really drill down on anything that caught my eye. That said, I did see a fantastic installation by Graham Hudson at the Design Miami fair. Graham has been on my radar for a long time and we are currently working on something for our new space. Stay tuned!
mbg: The holidays are quickly approaching. I always like to catch up on reading over the break. Have you read anything good lately that I should pick up?
ED: I’m not sure I have too much to offer here, Claire, as my reading lately has revolved around parenting magazines (I have a one year old) and management texts—fun, fun, fun! Actually, I would recommend The King is Dead, a novel by Jim Lewis—I read it a few months ago and thought it was one of the best things I had read in a long time. It’s about family—a perfect topic for the holidays.
Claire Ruud is Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative.