Two candidates vie for art museum directorship

One stresses finances and tech, other stresses inspiration and opportunity

Breanne Searing and Sang Jung

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The newly opened Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art hosted two candidates to describe their vision for the museum earlier this week. Both finalists have an extensive history working in art facilities, but set different priorities for WSU’s “Crimson Cube.”


Robin Held

Robin Held said the museum is in an important position to promote art and inspire others.

“I bring to WSU 20 years of professional experience as a museum curator, director of collections, creative strategist, and a cultural entrepreneur,” Held said. “I do think that the joy of working here brings that range of skills together with all of yours.”

Held said she has managed other art facilities, including the Henry Art Gallery at University of Washington, the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, and the Cornish College of the Arts.

“A museum’s mission, goals and impact are too complex to be reflected on a single mirror,” she said, “but there are shared characteristics, shared values.”

Held said the 21st-Century museum is not defined by architectural glamour. Rather, it is defined largely by audience engagement.

“I relish the opportunity we have at WSU … to explore together with students what it means now to be creators, innovators and citizens of the world,” Held said. “Our goals are ambitious, entrepreneurial and risk-supportive, essential qualities in today’s competitive arts, business, and academic environment.”

Held said the future of the collection and learning center offer a deep dive into the life of the objects and makes collections at WSU accessible to everyone.

“In the JSMOA constellation, the collection and learning center offers a unique art experience in open-storage spaces, crowded with a wealth of objects that would otherwise remain largely out of sight,” she said. “It’s an invaluable resource to discover the stories behind the objects and the artists who created them.”

Held said the museum is crucial for academic research, scholarly interaction and public conversations with artists.

“What can we do together that we can’t do as a part?” she said. “JSMOA merges social practice, artistic experimentation, education, and design. It evolves regularly with each project, demonstrated by methods of social engagement, and opportunities for creative exploration.”

Held said she believes giving artists a platform for their work would inspire more to create original work, which is essential to advancing society.

“And finally, the museum is guided by the founding principle that art expands hearts and minds,” she said. “While works of art may have value as objects, it’s the experience of them that is the most precious.”


Paul Baker Prindle

Paul Baker Prindle presented his vision for museum growth through fiscal responsibility, nurturing emerging artists and expanding research opportunities.

Baker Prindle is the current director of university galleries at University of Nevada. He has a bachelor’s degree in art history from Edgewood College, as well as a master of arts and a master of fine arts from the University of Wisconsin.

“I think [what] that space most critically needs is an abundance of space for students to linger, study and for coursework to happen,” Baker Prindle said.

He said he is interested in the possibility of organizing the museum like a department store with a collection area. The area could combine 3D printing and engineering and material science lab space with artwork collections. His vision for the museum stresses the creation of original research-driven products.

“Ultimately, when I talk about my passion for museums,” Baker Prindle said, “it is the opportunity to cultivate wonder that keeps me coming into the office every day.”

He said he hopes to strengthen the community by making the museum a prominent feature on campus.

He said he would coordinate programs to make the museum a leader in STEAM integration, which would mean incorporating art and design into science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Baker Prindle said the museum can be an integral partner in supporting the university’s goal of becoming a top-25 research institution, through his plans to support research and faculty work. He said the museum would then be able to produce sellable research-based products to support students.

He said the programs offered would be the museum’s distinguishing factor and would lead efforts to increase revenue.

“The first part of my plan here would be to dig into the books,” Baker Prindle said, “and get a solid understanding of present commitments, current resources and see if they are being properly allocated.”