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New Milwaukee Art Museum Director Sees Opportunity in Permanent Collection

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O Palsson
/
Flickr

It wasn’t too long after the Milwaukee Art Museum opened its renovated galleries a year ago that then director Dan Keegan announced his retirement. The intensive, international search for his successor led to the hiring of Marcelle Polednik, who began her tenure there in August.

Polednik came from the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, located at the University of North Florida. While director there, she spearheaded audience outreach and. cutting-edge exhibitions. While director, the museum's attendance grew by 70% and general revenue increased by almost 150%. Suffice to say, the Milwaukee Art Museum board would be pleased with similar results.

"[Museums] should also be places where we challenge the status quo and where we're not afraid to talk about important issues that we face as a society today."

Now that Polednik, her husband and son have settled into life in Milwaukee, she's had time to reflect on the role she sees the museum having in our community.

Polednik was surprised to learn how many well-known works were a part of the permanent collection of the museum.  "The fact that I didn't know that as an art historian, signaled to me that there's a tremendous opportunity both in the community - to gain more love and appreciation and engagement with the permanent collection - but also to announce to the world beyond Milwaukee that the museum has this astonishing permanent collection that we're ready to share," she says. 

Polednik believes art museums have a special place in our culture, and she's working to further the MAM's ability to engage with the community. 

"Any issue that we've tackled throughout history as a society, as a world, is expressed through art and challenged through art."

"[Museums are] really the places where community conversations can take place, they're gathering places, they're places of contemplation and respite," she says. "And they should also be places where we challenge the status quo and where we're not afraid to talk about important issues that we face as a society today."

"Any issue that we've tackled throughout history as a society, as a world, is expressed through art and challenged through art. And art also gives us an opportunity to look at it from a fresh perspective," says Polednik. 

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.