He hired an artist who would create a rainbow over the museum every day at 3 p.m.
After five months of looking at candidates, reviewing dossiers and holding several meetings, the search committee for the Akron Art Museum’s new director and CEO named the guy who did that — Mark Masuoka, the former Executive Director and CEO of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, an international artist-in-residence program in Omaha, Neb., whose Rainbow Project seemed to be the one thing that impressed the search committee the most.
Masuoka will assume his duties in Akron on July 15.
Fred Bidwell, former chair of the AAM Board of Trustees, headed the search committee that recommended Masuoka.
Principal of Bidwell Projects, Cleveland, the former AAM chair acknowledged that Masuoka is an unconventional choice.
“A typical museum director comes from a background of art history, curatorial experience, collections management experience, etc., similar to the background of our former director Mitchell Kahan,” Bidwell noted.
“Mark is quite different, although his credentials are extremely strong.”
Masuoka — whose wife is sculptor Deborah Masuoka and daughter is Moral, a junior at the University of Denver majoring in business and art history — received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii and master’s degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. His experience includes stints at his own Mark Masuoka Gallery in Las Vegas; the Nevada Institute for Contemporary Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver; the Carson-Masuoka Gallery in Denver and director and chief executive officer at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha.
“Our decision reflects Mark’s perspective and ideas on which direction he might take the museum,” Bidwell said.
“Mitchell, who does come from a traditional curatorial background, is conventional,” Bidwell said. “He spent 25 years building up the museum and did an incredibly fine job of doing that.
“Now, instead of trying to repeat that performance, our idea is that Mark has a unique perspective, insofar as connecting the public and the artists,” Bidwell said. “Mark can take the art out of the walls and bring it directly to the public. That’s what he did with the rainbow project.”
The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts was founded in the early 1980s and plays host to artists from all over the world. It is one of the nation’s premier artists’ colonies.
Coming to the Akron Art Museum is “probably one of the most exciting things that I’m looking forward to,” said Masuoka. “Not only is it a gorgeous museum, [but also] the new facility is just stunning.
“I’m looking forward to getting there and finding out what its role has been and could be,” he said.
“One of the things I’m really excited about is defining the role of the museum within Akron — how can the museum take an active role not only in the programs within the facility itself, but the programs in the community.”
Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal.