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What resonates for me is
Isabella Stewart Gardner's support of creativity in artists she admired and an endless inventiveness in her approach to life. Here was a woman who imagined creating a museum at 16 years old, and did it at 60. She collected paintings, textiles, and sculpture and then assembled them into galleries she personally arranged."
Director Anne Hawley
Q: Where did your passion for the arts come from?
A: I had extraordinary teachers in the arts. And my mother instilled in me a love of poetry, painting, and music. I've always found the creative process to be so filled with vitality and life. But it can be a brave and lonely life making and creating art. Those who do give us all something magical.
Q: When you came to the Gardner in 1989, what challenges did you face?
A: I thought the galleries and collection were amazing, but it seemed too quiet and lacking in creative energy. What attracted me was the legacy of artists who had been supported by Mrs. Gardner herself. Artists of all kinds did projects here - from John Sargent painting portraits to Ruth St. Denis performing the Cobra Dance. The spirit of artists begged to come back. Because Gardner herself supported both conventional and more experimental artists, the museum inherited a rich tradition.
Q: You created the successful Artist-in-Residency Program. How has it affected the community?
A: It gives artists time to do new work so they're not interrupted, but it also gives the public exciting new ways to see the museum. Visitors often connect to the artists, even though they don't necessarily come for that. It's a program that should be filled with a lot of risks so the artist can go to a new place in their work. Of course, we never know what an artist is going to come up with either - like composer Ken Frazelle who wrote an opera with two fifth-grade classes around one of the museum's greatest painting, Titian's Europa. I know those kids will not look at a painting in the same way again. Our partnering schools love this program because it brings kids in contact with artists who give them a new perspective on art, as well as what to discover here.
Q: How has Mrs. Gardner's legacy inspired you personally?
A: People fall in love with Mrs. Gardner because her museum shows you what she learned, how she kept reinventing her life and seeing new possibilities. What resonates for me is her support of creativity and her endless inventiveness as her approach to life, never accepting defeat. Here was a woman who imagined creating a museum at 16 years old, and did it at 60. She collected paintings, textiles, and sculpture and then assembled them into galleries she personally arranged.
Q: What's the vision for the Gardner Museum in this next century?
A: I hope the Gardner will be a center for creativity, a place where you see a great collection carefully conserved. But also the most experimental risk-taking with artists doing new work and getting it out to people.