HIMERA FROM THE EMPATHIC SERIES, 2013, SAYA WOOLFALK
As Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO at the Seattle Art Museum, Kimerly Rorschach is passionate about art and everything about the local, national and global art scene. Her career trajectory has been impressive, with an eight-year stint as the Director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University before coming to SAM in 2012. Prior assignments included the University of Chicago’s David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her credentials lend themselves well to the overall plan for SAM and its sister sites, the Asian ArtMuseum and the Olympic Sculpture Park.
Kimerly was aware of SAM’s national reputation for community engagement long before coming into her role; a reputation that remains top of mind in her day-to-day work. She took up her position during a time when Seattle was exploding into a dynamic and vibrant social scene. Long the crown jewel of the downtown core, the museum has responded to that growth to meet the needs of the shifting demographics in the city, with an influx of young adults migrating to the area to work and to play. “It’s important to be very cognizant of the changes happening around us, and continue to evolve to be the best museum, not only to preserve art but also not to forget to remain engaged with the community,” she states.
Ms. Rorschach is a champion for community engagement and ensuring SAM stays entwined in the fabric of what makes Seattle unique. Along with world-class exhibitions and a continuing desire to represent up-and-coming artists, programs designed to bring in young adults and youth to museum spaces to cultivate budding interests continue to be SAM’s calling card. Kimerly acknowledges that social media, particularly visual platforms such as Instagram, have enabled SAM to reach a much broader audience and to open up its offerings to the generation of digital natives who are tethered to their devices and empowered to be highly selective with the content they view. She recognizes and encourages the need for digital engagement, however points out that nothing can replace viewing art in real time and encourages patrons from all walks of life to come in and partake of the many different works contained within as “art always allows you to see things you otherwise wouldn’t see,” and helps you to better understand the community around you.
“When you have a great, vibrant community you can draw on that as a resource. The spirit of collaboration in Seattle is good and becomes a great resource to draw upon,” she adds. Kimerly’s vision for the museum as an embedded element of the cityscape and an integral player in the development of the Seattle waterfront is already well underway. And certainly with events such as SAM reMix, the nexus of visual art with music and other creative forms remains a hallmark of the downtown social scene with monthly events that consistently sell out and bring together the Gen X and Millennial generations under the same roof, forging an even tighter community bond.
In discussing what is coming up at SAM, Kimerly Rorschach’s enthusiasm is palpable. She is particularly proud of the upcoming exhibit entitled, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art. Opening in June, the exhibit will feature a collection of contemporary pieces designed to explore the past, present and future symbolism and psychological connotations of disguise. Funded in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Kimerly quickly points out that this showing will include artists that most people have not heard of, from Africa and around the world. She explains that although it is important to continue to bring in exhibitions of world-class artists to SAM, it is necessary to give others their time in the spotlight to build appreciation of next-gen artists and groom future patrons. SAM will be the organizing museum for Disguise, which will prepare the exhibit for its next stop at the Brooklyn Art Museum in 2016.
Additionally, in October the museum will be opening an exhibit entitled Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art featuring works by Renoir, Cezanne, Monet and many others from the period. The juxtaposition of the two exhibitions could not be more obvious and as Seattle readies itself to be elevated to the next tier in entertainment and artistry, Kimerly Rorshach and SAM will continue to be a great influence in shaping our collective appreciation of not just viewing art, but how we interact with art and in turn, with each other.