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Q&A with UAMA's new interim director Meg Hagyard

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Brian Ganter/UANews

Meg Hagyard, the newly appointed interim director of the UA Museum of Art. Hagyard, who took the position this month, plans to continue major exhibits as part of her upgraded role. 

Meg Hagyard is a native Tucsonan and University of Arizona almuna who has worked in the Tucson arts community since her graduation. Most recently, she has been appointed as the UAMA's new interim director. We sat down with Hagyard to talk about her career experiences and the future of the university's museum.

Daily Wildcat: What part of UA did you enjoy most as an undergrad?

Meg Hagyard: I really think that it was the relationships that I had with faculty. I had some particularly strong mentoring relationships with some faculty so I would say that experience.

DW: Spanning all of your previous work experience, what is your favorite project that you've worked on?

MH: I left non-profit for a while and had a collection, care and management business. I had a two-year long project with a particular collection during that period, and that was just an incredible learning experience. I got to build the team for it and work with lots of different kinds of people. So I would say the time that I had as a consultant working with a private collection.

DW: Where would you like to make improvements at the UAMA? What are your immediate and long-term plans?

MH: For improvements, it's just continuing the trajectory that the museum has already been on, and that's strengthening the connection between the museum and the student population and the faculty to really make people see this as their space, as their museum and to utilize the museum as a community campus connection. With projects like Mapping Q, we can be a really nice vehicle for students to learn more about the broader community. As a UA student, particularly if you're not from Tucson, you might only get to know the square mile around the university or maybe just Fourth Avenue, but I think through things like the museum, students can get more connected and understand the community that they're in. We can do that with the arts community and so I'm really excited about that particular aspect of what we're doing.

For long and short term plans, as interim director it's really going to be about working with the staff. We're going into a strategic planning process so working with the staff to do that, and then also ramping up for re-accreditation, which is a big deal for the museum. So a lot of the energy will be focused on preparing and doing all the internal work we need to do before we begin the re-accreditation process in 2019, and of course now with the "Woman-Ochre" being recovered, working through that process and the thoughtful conservation process that we will be undertaking.

RELATED: UA Museum of Art welcomes interim director Meg Hagyard

DW: Do you have any mentors, family members, friends or colleagues that inspired you to pursue a degree and a career involving art?

MH: I was always involved in the arts as a kid and I give my mom a huge amount of credit for being supportive of that. Whether it was ballet or theater or visual arts, I sort of had my hand in all of it when I was growing up. But it was a faculty member at the School of Art here that absolutely I can point back to being the person who pointed me on the trajectory of the career that I ended up having. She was a printmaking faculty named Rosemarie Bernardi. I lucked out to have a class with her and then that just sort of evolved into a deeper relationship. She's the first person who identified in me that I might have a skillset that worked well in the administrative end of things and asked me to organize a printmaking exhibition when I was an undergrad — which is normally a grad project, but there wasn't anybody in the grad program at the time that was stepping up to take on this project, and so she asked me to do it. I did, and that was really rewarding and challenging and frustrating but ultimately resulted in this exhibition and that was really cool. Then from that I ended up with an internship at the gallery where the exhibition was done, and during that internship is where I wrote my first grant that was successfully awarded, and then from there it turned into my first job in the arts and so it just all sort of parlayed from that moment.

DW: In your opinion, what is your best quality for the type of work that you do?

MH: Fundamentally I think to be in the non-profit world, being adaptable to the situation and knowing that the environment is always going to be changing. So I see myself as pretty adaptable, and I think that's definitely one of the strengths that I bring.

DW: What is your favorite collection, exhibit or program currently in the museum?

MH: There's so many things. Mapping Q, honestly, is probably the thing. I just have so much respect for Chelsea [Farrar], whose program that was the brainchild of, and I've seen the exhibition before because I was on staff with the museum last year, but this was the first year that I saw the process that led up to this exhibition. Seeing the youth that were here spending time in the museum, how they were using the space, the commitment that they had to the process, the integrity that they showed throughout, watching Chelsea engage with the young people and then seeing what it resulted in. It's a special program.

RELATED: UA Museum of Art's Mapping Q exhibit explores LGBTQ representation

DW: If you could display any artist's work at the UAMA, who would you choose?

MH: It's actually an artist that works well with the collection, but one of my all time favorite artists is Toulouse-Lautrec. So being able to do a Toulouse-Lautrec show would be amazing, but there's a million people. That list would be really long. When I think back to what was inspiring me when I was interested in art, that artist's work was one of the things that I really connected to so I think that's what I would do.

DW: As a native Tucsonan, what is your favorite aspect of living in the desert?

MH: The smell of the desert after the rain. I would say if not the post-rain smell, just the nighttime in the summer where the heat breaks and then it's just quiet and still and dark. It's beautiful.

DW: Do you have any advice for UA students considering a degree in art?

MH: To do it. I think that a degree in art is completely worthwhile. With any degree, you don't necessarily know the career that's going to unfold for you afterwards, but I think a degree in any type of arts provides you the opportunity to learn skills that are going to benefit you in any kind of career. What I'm thinking about particularly is not just the ability to think creatively and to learn how to think creatively and critically, but the ability to both develop your own ideas, have to learn how to trust and defend those ideas and your own concepts and what comes from bringing something from an idea to reality, like taking something from beginning to end. I feel with our current education system, sometimes you don't have those experiences very often, that you're plugging into something in a process but you aren't necessarily responsible for something from origination to completion. So I think those experiences are really important and will serve you in any career that you have.


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