Hope College August 2013 : Page 18
Staff Profile chief curator and curator of Asian art at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art of the University of Florida in Gainesville; and curator of Asian art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum of Oberlin College in Ohio. His scholarly work includes the book Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and Its Impact in Europe (as co-author) as well as numerous articles and exhibition catalogs. In college and university settings, he has taught courses in museum studies as well as Chinese art history, and has also engaged faculty and students in curating exhibitions. As a specialist in Asian art, he is especially excited to have the opportunity to work with the extensive collection of Japanese ceramics contributed to Hope by Dr. Maurice Kawashima, but he is also interested in the college’s Permanent Collection as a whole. In addition to the noteworthy individual pieces within the collection, he is particularly drawn to the variety of groups of works contributed to the college through the years and the stories that they tell together. “One of my strategies is to form a ‘collection of collections’ as a nucleus for the museum, like the Kawashima Collection and others that have been donated as a legacy,” he said. Not every curatorial professional has a chance to be involved in the development of a new museum and program, and from that standpoint Mason was immediately intrigued when he first learned about the opening at Hope. “The opportunity to be the founding director of a museum and literally build from the ground up is extraordinarily rare,” he said. He notes, however, that it was his experience with Hope that cemented the decision. He appreciated, when he visited during the interview process, the college’s small class sizes and faculty and staff interaction with students. And the students themselves impressed him with their curiosity, their enthusiasm and their commitment to learning. “All of that is infectious,” Mason said. “It’s just a wonderful environment.” Palette C harles Mason, newly arrived on campus as founding director of the new Kruizenga Art Museum, knows well the powerful impact that a meaningful encounter with art can have. He was an undergraduate back home in Ohio during summer break in the latter 1980s, and to help make ends meet had taken a part-time job as a security guard at the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was a good fit. He was majoring in Chinese history and language at Cambridge University in England, and the museum’s collection of Asian art is one of the world’s best. In the end, though, and unexpectedly, the experience was also transformational. “I spent much of my time monitoring the Asian galleries and became fascinated by the power of art to serve as a tangible, material connection to other people, places and times,” he said. “That interest in Asian art inspired me to go to graduate school at U.C. Berkeley, where I focused on Chinese and Japanese art. I also took courses in museum studies and landed a couple of museum internships, which convinced me that I wanted to pursue a career as a curator.” Mason doesn’t anticipate that every student who visits the Kruizenga Art Museum after it opens in 2015 will be inspired to pursue a career in the art world, but he does intend for them to be enriched whatever their path—and at the very least to provide the opportunity for them to discover some new possibilities. “I’m quite passionate about art. I love to share that with people and watch students catch that passion,” he said. “It’s a different kind of learning than you can get from reading a book or sitting in a lecture.” “The most exciting thing to me about the prospect of working at the Kruizenga Art Museum is the opportunity to integrate the As a young undergraduate, Charles Mason was so inspired by his experience with art that it guided him to a career as a curator. As director of the college’s new Kruizenga Art Museum, scheduled to open in 2015, he doesn’t anticipate that every student will choose to work in the art world, but he does intend that they will be enriched whatever their path. He is pictured with Japanese ceramics contributed to the college’s Permanent Collection by Dr. Maurice Kawashima that are currently on display at the Van Wylen Library. Adding to the museum into the curriculum and cultural life of Hope College,” he said. “The first three museums I worked at were either part of, or had strong ties to, academic institutions, and I’ve missed being involved with students and faculty.” The Kruizenga Art Museum, celebrated with a ground-breaking this summer, is among the initiatives of the A Greater Hope comprehensive campaign. It is being named in honor of a leadership gift from Dr. Richard Kruizenga ’52 and the late Margaret Feldman ’52 Kruizenga of Dallas, Texas, and Holland, Mich., that in addition to supporting construction of the museum has also endowed the director’s position. Mason has come to Hope equipped with 17 years of experience as either a curator or executive director with art museums across the country as well as in Canada. Most recently, he served as executive director of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, Calif., for the past two years. His previous professional experience includes serving as chief curator of the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, Canada; “I’m quite passionate about art. I love to share that with people and watch students catch that passion.” — Charles Mason; Director, Kruizenga Art Museum 18 News News From From Hope Hope College College
Adding to the Palette
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