ANDY FISH is a comic book artist

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Changes at the Worcester Art Museum

I've been associated with the Worcester Art Museum since WAAAAAY back in 1999 when then Youth Education Manager Anne Grimaldi contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in teaching comic art to kids.  I laughed at her.

She convinced me to come in and sit in on a class to see what they were like and it only reinforced the idea that this was not for me.

Needless to say, I changed my mind and I now have mentored something like 2500 students and it helped me craft my ability to teach on the collegiate level first at Mass College of Art and Design and now at Emerson College in Boston.

For years the two biggest things I'd get asked in regards to WAM were:

1. Worcester has an art museum?
2. The Art Museum has classes?

For the first six months of this year the ONLY question I've gotten:

1. What's the new director, Matthias Waschek like?

Lately I've not been asked anything-- and on occasion I'll get a comment with a look-- and I attribute this to the changes the new director has made in his first year at WAM.  Noticeably his campaign to get the front doors opened and to offer free admission for most of the summer.  He also had the lobby re-painted nearly seconds after WAM was painted in a stylized logo on the wall.  There are rumblings that many in the upper echelons of WAM hierarchy hate the term WAM-- the same way I've often heard the fine folks at WoMag prefer to be called Worcester Magazine.  He also eliminated the position of Education Director at WAM-- held for 25 years by my dear friend Honee Hess-- who herself was a tireless advocate for arts education and the brain behind the amazing ART ALL STATE event held annually at the museum.  Honee has since moved on to the WORCESTER CENTER FOR CRAFTS and I suspect we'll be hearing some great things coming from that area over the next year or so.

Mr. Waschek has been nothing but charming to me, and I've had the chance to see him at less than public moments.  I find him to be extremely smart and honest.  He will let you know when he doesn't like something and I would suggest diplomacy is not one of his primary skills-- something we have in common.

Jim Welu and Matthias Waschek
As fond as I was and continue to be of Jim Welu, the outgoing director and deservingly the Director Emeritus, I stand behind Waschek and his decisions even if it meant the elimination of my position as well.  WAM deserves to be a force in the area, it's already a force in the art world, its just that the people that live here don't know it.  I'm not saying I've been eliminated or that education is coming to an end, I'm just saying I'd support whatever plan he has in mind.

Waschek has established a solid relationship with the MFA in Boston and continues to grow that, and he's also working on things I can't discuss but am privy to that will take WAM firmly into the 21st Century.

I for one have my own list of musts-- and one of the musts for me is that the museum can't survive if it continues to be open only five days a week six hours a day.  11am - 5pm is not workable for people with jobs.  Back in my previous lives I ran supermarkets-- and one of the first things I would do is expand the hours to the complaint of my employees but to the benefit of my customers.

There also MUST be a valid cafe or restaurant at WAM.  Currently the museum cafe is Olive Garden Lite- and it's open something ridiculous like 1130-245pm three or four days a week.  Laughable.  Watching an episode of Gordon Ramsey's KITCHEN NIGHTMARES on BBC I could picture him ripping into us for not even trying, as he did the same to a restaurant only open three nights a week on his show.

"Being closed more than you're open tells your community you don't have faith in yourself!" he yelled at the owner with his clipped british accent.  Go get 'em Gordon!

I'd advocate the museum be open every hour there are classes in the building-- and that means M-R 9am - 9pm and the Cafe should mimic those hours.  If there are people in the building then all services should be available.

Have you ever shopped at a supermarket late at night and found the deli or the fish department closed?   I'll bet you have-- I certainly have-  but you would have never found that in one of my stores.

Like Worcester itself, The Worcester Art Museum wants to pretend its a world class institution, but that takes effort and that takes resolution.  And it also takes service.

Here's hoping Matthias brings it.