New Director Excited To Head UAM
Kimberli Meyer is excited to be the new director of the University Art Museum and encourages the campus and surrounding community to visit as often as possible.
CSULB’s University Art Museum (UAM) recently concluded a national search for a new director to succeed Christopher Scoates with the naming of Kimberli Meyer, director since 2002 of the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House (MAK Center) in West Hollywood. Meyer joined the university in July.
“I’m so excited,” said Meyer, who received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts. “The CSU is important because it provides a relatively low-cost entry to higher education, making campuses like CSULB the bedrock of our democracy. That is a big reason I’m looking forward to working in the context of the CSU system.
“Plus, I understand that CSULB has the largest art department on the West Coast with a terrific roster of faculty and students as well as a museum studies program, one of the first in the nation,” she added. “It naturally allows exploring how meaning gets made within the context of a museum. Moreover, Long Beach itself is a great city with a mixture of history and diversity that make it a very rich place to be thinking about art and museum work.”
Meyer initiated and organized a multitude of programs at the MAK Center including the exhibitions “How Many Billboards? Art In Stead,” co-curated with Lisa Henry, Nizan Shaked and Gloria Sutton, which presented 21 newly commissioned artworks on Los Angeles billboards (2010); “Sympathetic Seeing: Esther McCoy and the Heart of American Modernist Architecture and Design,” co-curated with Susan Morgan (2011); and “AV: New Works by Andrea Fraser, Vanessa Place” (2014).
First accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 1984, the UAM has played an increasingly significant role in achieving international recognition for the arts and artists in Southern California and maintains a strong commitment to scholarly and artistic excellence. During its nearly 40-year history, the UAM has earned a national reputation for its high-quality exhibitions, award-winning publications and notable collections and pioneering museum studies program.
Meyer believes her MAK Center career helped to prepare her for her current position in several ways. “The MAK Center is a West Coast satellite of Vienna’s Museum of Applied Art and Contemporary Art, and so, like the UAM, a small piece of larger structure,” she said. “The MAK Center is a lean organization. We did a lot with a little, and as I find out more about CSU budgets, I can see that the UAM also runs on a shoe string and that we’ll have to raise all the money we need to do the things we do. I was tasked with setting the artistic direction of the MAK Center and I am excited by the opportunity to do the same thing at the UAM. I can’t wait to start collaborating with the people that will help us realize these visions.”
Exhibitions, publications and collections are prime UAM resources. “I’m excited to be learning more about the UAM’s collection,” she said. “I want to know more about how we maintain our collection and the possibility of digitizing it to make it available to the scholarly community. There are so many threads of history to be found in this collection.”
One of her challenges as director is outreach. “I’m super-excited by the opportunity to get students involved with the museum,” she said. “I want students at CSULB to be hooked into what a museum can be. The UAM has a chance to be a center for the university community. There are lots of ways to do that and I hope we even invent a few new ones.”
Meyer looks forward to helping the UAM to keep pace with the changing role of museums in the 21st century. “Over the last 20 years, there has been a greater emphasis on engagement on the part of museums,” she said. “In order to make museums interesting and accessible, there has to be a new way to show why art is relevant and why we ought to care. There is a real difference in the role of museums between Europe and the US. In Europe, it goes without saying that art is important. It is government funded. Here, art has a tougher row to hoe. Museum professionals understand now that we have to try harder. We need a mixture of great content and new outreach techniques to spark people’s interest.”
Meyer encourages the campus and surrounding community to pay a call on the UAM. “It’s free,” she laughed. “There’s nothing scary about the UAM. You will find lots to interest you. I think your eyes will be happy because the visual nature of art will make your day a little better. When I visit a museum, I find that art feeds me. I want to see the day when what the UAM has becomes part of the daily cultural diet of this campus.”