One of David Brashear’s first jobs as interim director of the College of William and Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art will be to reopen it.
“I think we probably closed it prematurely, hindsight is 20-20,” said Micheal Halleran, college provost.
The museum, which closed for renovations last May, will reopen its doors to the public on April 5 with the student-run exhibition “Objects of Ceremony: Effervescence, Decay, and the Everyday.”
Brashear said the Muscarelle will remain open for about another year and a half, and his main focus now is to spark interest in the museum.
“We went through a period of time when the museum was closed and we’re opening it back up again, and I think that there needs to be excitement and energy re-ignited, and I believe he can do that,” said Sarah Gunn, member of the Muscarelle’s board. “I think it’s a very good fit right now.”
Longtime friend of the museum
Brashear replaced Aaron De Groft, who stepped down from his role as director after 13 years of service on Dec. 31.
“For me to be asked to serve (as director) was really an honor and an opportunity to serve, in an even expanded way, an institution that I love,” Brashear said.
Halleran said Brashear’s history on the Muscarelle’s board, knowing the staff on campus and his knowledge in the museum world made him a great candidate to be interim director.
Working in the art museum is fitting for Brashear, who is an artist himself. A photographer, his work has been displayed in the Muscarelle and 28 of his pieces are on permanent display in the Mason School of Business. There will be an exhibition of his work in Montpellier, France in June.
“He’s a splendid photographer with a particular eye for the articulation of elevations and architecture — and he is very responsive to patterns and light and shade and how they create patterns in architecture,” said Miles Chappell, a former professor of art history at the college.
Chappell said the fact that Brashear is involved in the field helps his work as director of the museum.
“Being a director has many sides, from practical and logistic to planning and programming … I think he’s in a good position to meet all these responsibilities,” Chappell said. “And I think working in photography as he does, and having had his work exhibited … I think all that informs how he goes about his work for the college, for the museum.”
Brashear said he plans to keep the museum relevant through programming, and the Muscarelle is looking at doing one deep dive per semester on a topic of interest to the art world.
“We’re really proud of the deep dive that we’re going to to take on art repatriation this spring under kind of a new focus called ‘Muscarelle Explorations’ and we are in the process of sorting through some topics ... that will be our Muscarelle Exploration for the fall,” Brashear said.
He added future Muscarelle Explorations could look at anything from an era of art to under-representation in the art world.
“We just have to boil through what is most interesting to us,” Brashear said.
“We’re starting to look at re-starting the art trips we used to do a little more of, and like I said, there’s going to be a whole series of lectures and films and documentaries and other ways for people to really dig deep on topics.”
The museum expects to close its doors again sometime between June-December of 2020, and re-open in 2022.
Brashear said his job as interim director is to help make sure the museum has a successful transition to its new space. He has been working with architects to finalize the designs for the museum’s new building.
“We are working with an outstanding group of architects in Richmond, New Haven and Williamsburg, and we have a floor plan we’re very excited about,” Brashear said.
While he’s seen a few images of what the new building could look like, Brashear said the final design could end up looking a million different ways.
“I think we’re really doing this the way a good architect would do a building and that is making sure the spaces work first and then figuring out how to wrap the spaces, rather than figuring what the wrapper looks like first and then trying to figure out your program into the building,” Brashear said.
Halleran will step down as provost at the end of the academic year and said his successor will look for the Muscarelle’s next director.
Brashear said he hasn’t thought of becoming the museum’s permanent director, but he would consider it.
“That’s not what I’m working toward right now. What I’m working toward is making sure the museum, over the course of the next year, is as strong and solid as it can be,” Brashear said. “And I’m really enjoying doing the job, it’s been a pleasure so far.”
Want to learn more?
The museum will re-open April 5, with daily hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Admission for non-members is $5.
To stay up to date the on the Muscarelle, visit muscarelle.org.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.