Fine art

Three Taos museums and one art organization announce new leaders

Each offer fresh outlooks and commitment to renewed engagement with the community

By Virginia L. Clark
Posted 9/8/18

The earth moved under our feet this year as four new arts and museum directors have been selected, one of whom, Tom Tkach, is interim director of University of New Mexico's …

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Fine art

Three Taos museums and one art organization announce new leaders

Each offer fresh outlooks and commitment to renewed engagement with the community


The earth moved under our feet this year as four new arts and museum directors have been selected, one of whom, Tom Tkach, is interim director of University of New Mexico's Harwood Museum of Art until the new director is chosen - possibly by year's end, he says. A UNM board member, Tkach has been executive director of UNM's Popejoy Hall since 1996, and is volunteering to fill in until a new Harwood director comes on board.

The other three directors and their respective organizations are Taos Center for the Arts executive director Colette LaBouff, who started early August; Kit Carson Home and Museum executive director C.J. Law, who started last July; and Taos Art Museum at Fechin House executive director Christy Schoedinger, who officially comes on board Sept. 10.

All four directors feel a new era is upon museums and art institutions.

Schoedinger summed up the Fechin's challenge in the word "engagement."

"The critically important word here is engagement, not just for younger audiences, but all audiences," she said. "The Taos Art Museum already has a strong foundation, so it will be exciting to build upon it with an array of meaningful experiences to connect with a wide range of diverse audiences throughout the community and beyond. This is true of the marketing and outreach, visitor experience as well as the programming offered."

LaBouff is looking at possibly repurposing Taos Center for the Art's creative spaces. "I have a lot of listening to do since I'm new here, but I am interested in how the TCA might serve its many communities by rethinking the traditional use of spaces: the gallery as a maker space or for dance, the theater for art, the stage for a poetry workshop, films for opportunities that reach beyond film arts to ask questions. I'm interested in how these all relate to audiences," she said, adding there "are individuals more experienced in life, those who are school-age, those who speak languages other than English, those who have been here for lifetimes and those who have just arrived. How technology helps us reach and connect is going to be a part of that."

Law said the biggest challenge for Kit Carson Home and Museum is interpreting Carson's history to children. "Kids don't know what they don't know about history, specifically about Kit's history," he said. "They don't know what a mountain man was, what a trapper trapped and why. Educating the younger generation about what happened before them is the major challenge. So, at the Carson museum I've developed a little extra for the kids - Beaver School, where they get to handle a beaver hide, and learn what they're used for, to touch a cannon ball, and learn what it was used for, all without getting them into social, political or any kind of controversy. We just want to get them interested in the past."

Tkach said UNM's performing and visual arts challenge is basically the same, "focusing on the visitor experience." "Why do people come to us, to the museum specifically?" he asked rhetorically. "The Harwood has some of the best artwork from around the world - like now, Larry Bell and Agnes Martin. Nowadays, you go on a website and find what you're looking for and then you go to the museum to see the original. We want to know what is their experience before they walk in the door? Why are they coming in? What are their expectations?

In addition to their administrative roles, Tempo wanted to find out a bit more about who the directors are as people.

1. How did you find Taos in the first place?

TCA's Colette LaBouff: Working in Roswell for the last seven years allowed me to come to Taos from time to time. I'm not a skier, but I'm exploring hiking and the yoga community, meditation, too. I opened a yoga studio in Roswell for a time, so I'm really interested.

KC Museum C.J. Law: I'm a native New Mexican. I was born and raised in Taos. I was a Taos High School student. I've lived in Arizona, Montana, Colorado and I've been working my way back. I finally made it two months ago.

Taos Art Museum-Fechin House Cindy Schoedinger: I have always loved Taos and initially visited many years ago because of my interest in the art, culture and history of the area. I am also an outdoors enthusiast and enjoy all that Taos has to offer in that regard. Those attractions, combined with the diverse, warm and welcoming community, inspired return visits, and ultimately, a permanent move.

Harwood's Tom Tkach: I had been coming to Taos for a few years before I was on the board of the museum. I really love the outdoors here and especially the stars at night. Gives me a great feeling of connectivity and peace.

2. Are you moving a family with you or are you a singleton?

LaBouff: A singleton, and I'm moving here with my two dogs.

Law: I'm a singleton. My pet is a tractor.

Schoedinger.: I'll be moving with my fiancé, John Coleman, who enthusiastically shares my love of Taos. I also have two adult daughters who are excited to visit often.

Tkach: I'm not moving here. I come up to Taos from Wednesdays through Fridays.

3. Are you also an artist or other creative?

LaBouff: I am a poet and writer. Right now I have a series of prose poems to be published, a chapbook length, by Press Container. They publish a limited run of the work, and they work with the artist to make the chapbook like an exhibition of objects. I am a volunteer and poetry editor for Zócalo Public Square. I curate the poem and photo feature. I recently had the pleasure of publishing a poet from Roswell.

Law:: Not a creative as such. I'm known to work in wood and metal. I've done furniture, wood stoves, guns -- useful stuff.

Schoedinger: I enjoy creating with many different mediums, but primarily work with pen and ink, paint and clay. For me it's more about the creative process than a final product, so it's unlikely you'd ever see my work anywhere in the public realm. For my birthday this year, my daughters gave me a gift certificate to Taos Clay - I can't wait to spend time there throwing pots on the wheel!

Tkach: Not professionally, but I do oil painting, painting on silks and ceramics, sculpture; I've taken a Japanese woodblock class. And lately I'm into "handpan flying saucers." Look it up - it's fascinating! I just like the learning process, anything that works the mind muscles.

Background info

Colette LaBouff

For 10 years LaBouff was assistant director and interim acting director of a unit of the University of California at Irvine, and more recently, she was events and membership coordinator for the Roswell Museum and Art Center and reference librarian at the Roswell Public Library. A published writer and poet, she has a bachelor of arts degree from Loyola Marymount University and masters and doctorate degrees in poetry and English from University of California, Irvine.

C.J. Law

Law prefers not to focus on his degrees and downplays his educational accomplishments except to state he got his doctorate in education and administration from the University of Arizona.

Christy Schoedinger

Since 2012, Schoedinger has been director of development at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, where she helped reach and surpass their $53 million campaign goal; she was also OSU’s director of development in the College of the Arts and James Cancer Hospital, executive director of Dublin Arts Council, and program coordinator at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center. She earned a degree from OSU, with a concentration in arts administration.

Thomas Tkach

Tkach is executive director of UNM’s public events department and Popejoy Hall, a 2,100-seat state-of-the- art performance venue presenting over 150 events and 235 performances each year. Previously he was Monmouth County Arts Council director, of Red Bank, New Jersey, a private nonprofit arts agency providing technical assistance and grant funding to over 50 arts organizations and individual artists. He also worked as director of the historic Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, New Jersey, a 1,435-seat performance center, gallery and studio space and director of Very Special Arts New Jersey – Visibility Program, promoting work by visual artists with disabilities. He earned a bachelor's in finance at Montclair State University and a masters in management of the arts at City University London, United Kingdom.


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