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Friday, March 8, 2013

CAM Raleigh changes leadership on eve of second anniversary

Posted by on Fri, Mar 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM

CAM Raleigh officially opened in April 2011.
RALEIGH—As CAM Raleigh approaches the two-year mark, the museum is making changes. It’s also taking the opportunity, in advance of the noise of birthday celebrations next month, to revisit its aspirations.

One change is taking place at the top. Early this week, CAM parted ways with Elysia Borowy-Reeder, the museum's executive director of the last two years. The change has been announced internally but an official announcement is expected soon.
[UPDATE 4:11 p.m.: Here it is.]

Kate Shafer, who has served as gallery and exhibitions manager since the institution’s opening, is now interim director.

“There was a desire on the part of the Contemporary Art Foundation and the advisory board to seek a new direction for the philosophy and the leadership of CAM,” says Marvin Malecha, ex-officio of the museum’s advisory board.

Borowy-Reeder, who is traveling, referred questions to Malecha.

“I think there are some people here who were looking for maybe more of an out-of-the-box thought process relative to how we go forward with CAM, rather than a traditional director’s role as we’d been in," Malecha said.

"We’re looking to take a new turn after two years of finally getting the museum into place after years of aspiration. This is really a chance to go off in a new direction.”

What does “new direction” mean, exactly? The museum’s two governing bodies—the 14-member advisory board and the 16-member Contemporary Art Foundation—will kick around answers during a half-day retreat next week. They’ll also decide what kind of search CAM will make for a new director, or whether they’ll simply reorganize the existing staff.

In other very recent changes, Marjorie Hodges has taken on the role of director of the Contemporary Art Foundation. Her commute won’t change, however—Hodges leaves the Flanders Gallery, directly across West Street from CAM.

Gab Smith also comes on board as director of advancement and membership engagement.

CAM Raleigh emerged as a fixture on the Raleigh nightlife scene. In September 2012, it was a venue for the Hopscotch Music Festival (above).
  • Photo by Adam David Kissick
  • CAM Raleigh emerged as a fixture on the Raleigh nightlife scene. In September 2012, it was a venue for the Hopscotch Music Festival (above).
Malecha, who has been dean of the N.C. State College of Design since 1994, and was instrumental in keeping the old City Gallery of Contemporary Art concept going after they lost their Moore Square space in 1996, would like to see CAM build out their educational programs. Even though such programs had been at the top of the drawing board from before CAM opened, they’ve gotten bigger than anyone expected. Malecha hadn’t anticipated that CAM would become a regional draw so quickly, noting that families are driving up from Wilmington for Saturday workshops.

“We have a very strong commitment to education. I expect to see that grow,” Malecha says.

“The grade 6-12 activities there are just phenomenal. We do something at least 40 weekends of the year that has to do with education, all the way from children to families. And we are pushing in directions with our College of Education to do teacher certificates for creative teaching in the arts. So much of that is gone from the schools, so CAM has the ability to get to teachers and get to potential students,” Malecha says.

“We want to think differently about adult education and think differently about how the exhibitions play into that.”

Borowy-Reeder can be praised for getting CAM up to speed so quickly. First Friday events—which will be free during March while the museum looks for corporate sponsorship to continue that—are crowded, festival-like shindigs, a success attributable to her twin backgrounds in curating and marketing. Her Chicago art-world connections have brought in many of the emerging artists who’ve shown at CAM thus far. Borowy-Reeder’s legacy is the establishment of a culture of excitement around the museum.

Malecha acknowledges that success. “It’s brought a little bit of Los Angeles and New York to downtown Raleigh. I looked around at our opening party, and again recently at our auction event, and saw the kind of gathering of creative people that is going to move Raleigh forward.”

Shafer is looking forward to stepping out from the closed-door role of exhibitions manager to be a key player in that realm.

“I’m really excited, personally, for this opportunity to have more of a front-of-house role and to be able to interact more with our key stakeholders and visitors,” Shafer says.

“We certainly want to expand our educational programs in terms of more community things. We have a very large high school and middle school program. And we have some adult programs but we would like to do more of that. This is really a strategic move on the leadership’s part to change in that direction,” Shafer says.

“It’s not unusual for changes like this to happen, to keep things from getting stale," she continues. "I’m not saying they were but, especially right after you open a museum like this, it’s not unusual to have a complete turnover.”

“It’s just a desire to move on,” Malecha says. “Once you identify where you want to go, you go there.”

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