June 25, 2018
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Former Farnsworth curator hired to lead contemporary art center

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Jessica Bloch, BDN Staff

ROCKPORT, Maine — In a move officials said will help the Center for Maine Contemporary Art move forward from financial difficulties last fall, former Farnsworth Art Museum Chief Curator Suzette McAvoy has been named the director of the embattled art center.

CMCA hired McAvoy last month as a consultant in order “to guide the organization in its restructuring and curatorial vision and direction,” according to a release.

McAvoy will continue as a consultant until September, when she will take over as director.

She replaces Mary Ann Schierholt, who was hired as CMCA’s executive director in August.

Schierholt is going to California to pursue a business opportunity, last week’s release said.

In October, the CMCA announced it had laid off four full-time employees — Schierholt kept her job — two members of the board of directors had resigned, and the center would close for the winter season.

The nonprofit institution’s most recent income tax documents showed that CMCA had a deficit of $219,000 during 2008 and a deficit of $115,000 in 2007, according to a Nov. 4 Bangor Daily News story.

At the time, Schierholt said, “We simply ran out of money.”

McAvoy will have oversight of not only CMCA’s administration, but also its artistic and educational programming.

In a statement, McAvoy acknowledged there are challenges for the center, but also “great opportunities for advancement.”

“Maine has a vital and vibrant contemporary art scene — one of the best in the country — and I am passionate about bringing this work to a larger audience,” she said.

The 58-year-old center is one of the few in Maine to focus on contemporary Maine artists, and also hosts a juried biennial exhibition, the 2010 version of which will open May 29 as the first major show since the closure in December.

The former chief curator of the Farnsworth museum in Rockland, McAvoy has more than 20 years of experience as a curator, administrator, consultant and teacher in the art field. She writes a monthly column on contemporary Maine art for Maine Home+Design magazine.

“We know Suzette will bring stimulating exhibitions and innovative programming to CMCA and to the arts community in Maine,” CMCA board chairwoman Judith Daniels said in a statement. “CMCA, 58 years old and newly restructured and energized, is primed to move forward. Suzette is the best person to take us there.”

McAvoy has organized national traveling exhibitions of the work of Louise Nevelson, Alex Katz, Kenneth Noland, Lois Dodd, Karl Schrag and Alan Magee.

She also served as the Farnsworth’s interim director in 2005.

As part of its restructuring, CMCA recently hired Paula Blanchard of Camden as operations manager. Blanchard was most recently manager of marketing and consumer sales at Down East Books in Rockport. She first joined CMCA last summer as a volunteer to help with online marketing.

Bruce Brown, CMCA’s curator emeritus, is working with the center to oversee this year’s exhibition schedule, which will run until mid-December.

The center also announced recently it had brought on two new board members — educator and former CMCA board member Dorothy Foote of Rockport and artist Mark Wethli of Brunswick.

The biennial is scheduled to run until June 17. An exhibition of Meggan Gould photographs will run concurrently with the biennial.

For more information on CMCA, go to www.cmcanow.org.

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