by Max Marbut
When George Kinghorn, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville, announced he had accepted a position as director of the University of Maine Museum of Art, it could have engendered a nationwide search for his replacement.
Actually, the search didn’t have to go any further than a few doors down the hall from Kinghorn’s office. The museum’s board decided the required talent was already in place. Two staff members who have each been at the institution for about a year have been chosen to take over Kinghorn’s responsibilities in the curatorial process as well as planning and installing MOCA’s exhibits.
Ben Thompson, who has been the museum’s registrar, has taken on the title and responsibility of associate curator and J. Marshall Adams will add director of exhibitions to his current title, director of education. Both are trained artists who made the transition to the business office.
Thompson earned his Master of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and worked in several museums in New England before arriving at MOCA. Adams is also a trained studio artist and 12 years ago discovered a love for art education and received a master’s degree in education from Banks College in New York. Before coming to MOCA he was director of education at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
“The three of us have been working with the museum’s board and committees planning the museum’s season and the direction for the museum is set through August 2009,” said Kinghorn, and Adams added, “George has a very collaborative style and that’s something we will be carrying forward.”
Promoting two members of the staff has more than one advantage.
MOCA Director Debbie Broder said promoting from within “is a very good business move. We have talented people on our staff and we can give them the opportunity to use the skills they have in different ways.”
“By moving Ben and Marshall into the curatorial and exhibit areas the museum can also have the smoothest possible transition. We have a firm foundation in place so we’re on very solid ground in exhibitions and in education. The museum won’t miss a beat,” said Kinghorn.
Having two people already on staff assume the duties of curator is also a sound fiscal move. Kinghorn said promoting from within is something that is becoming common when cultural institutions have staff openings.
“You see it happening more each year with the financial challenges facing arts organizations all over the country,” said Kinghorn.
Adams echoed Kinghorn’s comment when he talked about the challenges facing MOCA and other institutions.
“It’s no secret the finances of the not-for-profit world are in jeopardy,” said Adams. “Ben and I will work to maintain the museum’s missions of education and providing the community with a place to appreciate the distinctive nature of contemporary art.”
Kinghorn, who has been the museum’s curator since 1999, said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to become the director of the University of Maine Museum of Art.
“Since the museum is affiliated with the state university, I’ll be able to interact with other scholars and faculty as well as students. Another thing I’m excited about is the museum is not located on campus, it’s in downtown Bangor, so in that sense it’s a lot like MOCA and like MOCA, it’s a tremendous resource for the academic community and the community as a whole,” he said.
Kinghorn said he will be at his new post in Maine June 9, but three days before then he’ll be attending a celebration that will remind him of one he attended at MOCA last Friday evening.
“I’ll be there June 6 when the museum celebrates its fifth anniversary in downtown Bangor just like we did here at MOCA last week.”