New art director adopts liberal arts mind set

Claire+Kovacs%2C+the+new+art+museum+director%2C+inspects+pieces+of+art+at+the+museum.+The+first+exhibition+of+the+year%2C+What+a+Relief%2C+is+being+shown+at+the+museum+until+Oct.+30.%0APhoto+by+Ian+Magnuson.

Claire Kovacs, the new art museum director, inspects pieces of art at the museum. The first exhibition of the year, What a Relief, is being shown at the museum until Oct. 30. Photo by Ian Magnuson.

Claire Kovacs, the new art museum director, inspects pieces of art at the museum. The first exhibition of the year, What a Relief, is being shown at the museum until Oct. 30. Photo by Ian Magnuson.
Claire Kovacs, the new art museum director, inspects pieces of art at the museum. The first exhibition of the year, What a Relief, is being shown at the museum until Oct. 30.
Photo by Ian Magnuson.

Dr. Claire Kovacs, Augustana’s new teaching museum of art director, said the reason she wanted to work at Augustana is her enjoyment of the liberal arts atmosphere.

This is her second year working at Augustana, her first year being an Interim Assistant to the former Art Director.

Her first experience with a liberal arts college was at Coe College, where she said she discovered the importance of a liberal arts education.

When she moved to other colleges, she missed the creative and energizing opportunities that Coe College created for her.

She moved to the University of Iowa for a doctoral degree and found that she enjoyed being in the Midwest. All of those traits added up to making her interested in working for Augustana College, a liberal arts college with creative opportunities located in the Midwest.

Kovacs said that a liberal arts museum is very different from a big museum.

“I think it’s important to bring in art for contemporary questions and moments to energize students,” said Kovacs. “Art is a major driving force with major issues and concerns in our society…a visual engagement allows new perspectives.”

Her tasks as an Art Director are delegating schedules and programs, deciding what art to display every year, taking care of collections all over campus (amounting to about 4,200 objects), and working with faculty to allow times for them to bring classes to the museum and showing objects to students that are relative to the class. She does all of this while working on her own research on 19th century European art that focuses on social networks with artists.

Dr. Kovacs became interested in art, more with art history, at a young age.

“Early on I remembered taking classes in an art museum where we go into galleries and talk about art, then make art in a separate room,” said Kovacs.

Kovacs said she attended Case Western University to study chemistry, but little hints pushed her towards art in college, such as culture and history becoming topics that she loved. She didn’t figure out her passion for art until April of her senior year. She was able to change her plans from chemistry to art conservation with an intention of grad school and was able to stay in the Master’s Program.

When she became a faculty member for certain museums and colleges, she realized that she really enjoyed handling the artistic objects more than deskwork.

Museum assistant John Bastian said Kovacs is extremely passionate.

“She is extremely passionate,” said Bastian. “When she came to Augustana last year I had just assumed that she was the new art director. I didn’t know that she was only on an interim basis at the time” said Bastian.

He said that the biggest change to the museum under Dr. Kovacs is the attention to detail and new things about art that he never knew existed.

“Often times the work comes from artists right here in the quad cities and every spring term the whole gallery is filled with artwork from senior art members at Augie,” Bastian said. “That is always my favorite exhibition because the students worked so hard for so long on those pieces and the creativity that comes out in the work is astounding.”

There are three exhibitions hosted at the Art Museum every year. The What a Relief Variations on Printmaking showcases the works of Janet Taylor and Joseph Larpie as well as the Ukiyo-e prints from the museum’s collection and is shown until Oct. 30.

A Place Called Home is a collection of works by Frank Lundhal who was born and grew up in the Quad Cities. His collection is owned by the museum and will be shown from Nov. 18 to Feb. 12. The last major exhibition is Plantbot Genetics Presents: The Moth Project. The work is by artists Wendy DesChene and Jeff Schumuki about secondary pollinators and will be shown from March 9 to April 2 in 2016.

Kovacs said she wants to give the art museum a more digital presence and incorporate the community with group art projects such as knit bombing in the future.