New art director takes over


Maria Shannon, the current interim art director, has taken over after the former director retired on Oct. 6.

Interim Art Director Anna Maria Shannon’s office in the WSU Museum of Art overlooks the campus, with a few afternoon rays of light shining through the window. Her walls are covered in photographs of her family, drawings and paintings, and she has a stuffed bear wearing a WSU shirt sitting on her shelf.

Shannon has taken the place of former Art Director Chris Bruce after his retirement on Oct. 6.

This is Shannon’s third time serving as interim director. Shannon’s favorite part of the job is working with her staff. They are focused, driven and everyone is on the same page, she said.

Debby Stinson, the museum’s marketing and public relations manager, said Shannon is the perfect choice.

“I can’t think of a better person for interim director,” Stinson said.

Shannon has worked for WSU for 21 years, and was the associate director with the museum for 14 years. She started working for the museum as a volunteer more than 20 years ago, and worked her way up to interim art director.

She has a master’s in design from WSU, and working for the museum is her passion because of the people she gets to work with.

“You meet incredible artists … you get to see incredible art every day,” Shannon said.

Shannon said she doesn’t have a favorite type of art because art is too expansive; every part of it touches every other part, she said.

“Whatever we have in the exhibition space is my favorite at that moment,” Shannon said.

Shannon says the creative process is about touching the viewer and informing a relationship between the artist and the viewers. That part of the arts is her favorite.

The technicolor heart is one of the most controversial pieces of art on the WSU campus. It sparked protests on campus, but it was the first time in years people were talking about art, Shannon said.

Shannon said the heart has given her opportunities to engage with people.

“People who’ve come in mad, and people who’ve come in really happy to see it,” Shannon said. “That’s my favorite thing about art. That engagement.”

Her favorite part of her job, she said, is easy to define. She hopes to put together art programs, exhibitions and paid internships to bring students together. One example is the exhibit they put on that featured poetry from WSU poetry students which was paired with artwork.

Shannon says the museum hopes to create programs and exhibitions to bring in students from all across campus. She wants people to walk through the door and feel like they belong. She hopes to create a history of fashion exhibit that works with the Department of Apparel, Design, Merchandising and Textiles.

An exhibition they had a few years ago with artist Roger Shimomura caused them to change the way they developed programming. What they developed straddled a few disciplines on campus and gave them opportunities to work with ASWSU, the Student Entertainment Board (SEB), and other organizations on campus.

The museum was able to bring films and the artist to campus, and with all of the programming they developed around that, “It was like a giant pebble in a lake, and it sent out these gorgeous ripples,” Shannon said.

And with those ripples, other equally wonderful effects have come about, she said. The exhibit travelled to two other museums, and a team of documentarians are doing a documentary on Shimomura.

This exhibition has allowed them to reach across different disciplines, and allowed them to move outside of the WSU realm, she said.

Shannon said one big challenge museums in the 21st century face is how to compete with all the noise.

“It’s not just about walking into that space,” Shannon said, “it’s about the experience. How do we make the experience so rich and so wonderful people want to come back?

“They’re wonderful people, and so dedicated to what they do,” Shannon said.