Aspen Art Museum features its own |

Aspen Art Museum features its own

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – While putting together an exhibition by her fellow Aspen Art Museum staff members, Nicole Kinsler, the museum’s curatorial associate, learned that Jason Smith, part of the installation crew, had been an Olympic snowboarder who competed in the 2006 games in Torino, Italy.

Kinsler and the rest of the museum staff are about to discover a lot more about their co-workers. The museum’s series concludes with an exhibition of work by its own staff members, as well as by two of the museum’s founders. It’s not surprising that much of the staff, from the front-desk people on up, is made up of artists. But their artistic pursuits are generally kept quiet as they focus on organizing, installing and displaying works by artists with international reputations.

“On a daily basis, we’re just busy here, focused on the shows that are up, the ones upcoming and the public programs we’re doing,” Kinsler, who has held a variety of positions over 10 years at the Aspen Art Museum, said. “This is the first time I’m seeing a lot of their work, or even knowing what they do.”

Kinsler is an artist herself. She has a degree in printmaking from Colorado State and one in graphic design from the Art Institute of Colorado, and has mainly worked in printmaking. But as the curator of the exhibition – the final event in the project, which had a handful of local arts organizations showing their work at the Aspen Art Museum – Kinsler excluded her own art.

Instead, she can look at the art made by the people she works side by side with. The exhibition, which opens with a 6 p.m. reception Wednesday and runs through Sunday, Nov. 28, features ceramic pieces by chief preparator and facilities manager Jonathan Hagman and visitor services assistant Kasey Bullerman; prints by youth programs manager Genna Collins, executive assistant to the director Sherry Black and educator Patricia Bukur; paintings and mixed media works by Jason Smith; works on paper and a sculpture installation by design director Jared Rippy; and mixed media on paper by development coordinator Ellie Closuit. There are also paintings by Dick Carter and sculpture by Laura Thorne; Carter and Thorne were part of the group that co-founded the Aspen Art Museum in 1979.

Even if they don’t practice their art-making at their place of work, the staff finds advantages to being employed in an art museum.

“It’s definitely interesting to meet and have access to all the international artists who come here,” Closuit, who studied art history at the University of the South, said. “You get a little insight into how they work, and on an intimate level.”

Black added that artist/staff members at the Aspen Art Museum have benefits that aren’t necessarily present at other museums. Because the Aspen Art Museum often works with artists to create new work specifically for Aspen, the staff can be on the inside of the creative process. “You’re interacting with the work in a whole different way,” Black, who earned a graduate degree in art from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and started at the museum as an installer, said.

“I know I didn’t understand before working here the involvement that a museum can have in creating new works,” Kinsler added.

The gallery spaces themselves can be an influence on the art-minded people who work inside it. “You’re doing your job from the perspective of an artist,” Black said. “You think about the context of the museum more. I never thought before about how much the space affects the work, how the context of a museum changes your work. That’s interesting to see.”

The staff members participating in the current exhibition will have a unique, and potentially unsettling, experience. Their art will be displayed not only where they can see it, but where their co-workers will see it all day, for several days.

“You’re seen as a professional here, and this makes you vulnerable in a way. Because you have a specific relationship with the people here,” Black said. “But it’s always hard to show your work. It’s never easy.”