Farnsworth Art Museum names new director

Posted Nov. 04, 2009, at 7:47 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Christopher Brownawell is ready to move from an art museum in one coastal, seasonal community to another art museum in a similar community.

Brownawell, the director of the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Md., has been named the new director of the Farnsworth Art Museum, one of Maine’s largest museums and noted for its collection, which includes works by artists such as Andrew Wyeth, Robert Indiana, Louise Nevelson and George Bellows.

Farnsworth board of trustees President Richard Aroneau announced the decision Wednesday.

Brownawell will take over on Feb. 1, 2010, after moving from the Eastern Shore area of Maryland to midcoast Maine.

“I’m delighted,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “[The Farnsworth is] a jewel and obviously a great attraction.”

Brownawell said based on his visits to Maine as he interviewed for the Farnsworth position, there are plenty of parallels between Easton, which is located on Chesapeake Bay, and Rockland’s Penobscot Bay location.

“We obviously deal with the seasonal audience here, just like midcoast Maine does,” Brownawell said. “It’s similar as far as its love of the region, both the natural attributes and the cultural attributes. People are very passionate, in my experience, about living on the Eastern Shore. In my visits to Maine, they’re passionate about that area.”

The Academy museum’s audience is composed of weekend visitors from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas, he added, just as the Farnsworth sees a lot of traffic from summer visitors.

A Pennsylvania native, Brownawell joined the Easton museum in 1988 in the role of curator. He also has held positions with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Commonwealth Conservation Center during internships.

The Academy Art Museum focuses primarily on European and American works on paper, especially work by prominent artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein, who have connections to the Eastern Shore region.

Similarly, the Farnsworth’s emphasis is on world-famous artists whose careers have been closely associated with Maine.

“We’re presenting some of the major works that have been produced throughout art history,” he said. “The Farnsworth has that same charm where they’re able to work with artists of great renown to really build a great collection.”

Brownawell will take over the Farnsworth directorship from Michael K. Komanecky, who has served as the museum’s interim director since January 2009 when Lora Urbanelli, then the Farnsworth’s director, became director of the Montclair Art Museum.

Komanecky will return to a full-time role as chief curator upon Brownawell’s arrival.

Brownawell said he was impressed in meeting people affiliated with the Farnsworth, which “sealed the deal” for him.

“It’s got a great staff, a great board, and people are just terribly passionate about the institution, and that’s what you need,” he said.

The new director also is looking forward to working with the other institutions in Rockland, including both private galleries and nonprofit organizations located up and down Rockland’s Main Street and in the midcoast area.

“It’s great on many levels, and the more the merrier,” Brownawell said. “I think it provides opportunities for the Farnsworth to get involved and collaborate with other institutions.”

Brownawell’s wife, Carol, and three children also will move to the midcoast area.

For more information about the Farnsworth, go to www.farnsworthmuseum.org.

jbloch@bangordailynews.net

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