Rachel Teagle

Q&A: New UCD museum director Rachel Teagle sees art as essential to a well-rounded education

Published: Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 - 7:58 am

Rachel Teagle has been selected by the University of California, Davis, to direct the new $30 million Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art.

The St. Louis native brings more than 15 years of experience as a curator and museum director. Most recently, she served as director of the New Children's Museum in San Diego.

The museum, scheduled for completion in 2016, will be funded by donations and bonds.

Why did you choose UC Davis?

I am very excited to work with students, which partly comes from my own experiences as an undergraduate. In my family, art museums weren't really important. My first exposure to art was in college, and it literally changed my life.

What are the challenges of building a museum from the ground up?

Fundraising comes to mind. Though most of the fundraising is done, we now have to focus on the endowment. Another challenge is trying to envision something for the future.

Why does UC Davis need a world-class museum?

Every great university needs a place where the community can access great works of art. I am a believer that you cannot be a truly well-educated person if art is not part of your life.

How did you get into museums?

I worked the whole time during graduate school and had a bit of a crisis. I love academics, but it doesn't feed my soul to spend all day in the library. I found that museum work was a great combination – there's a scholarly purpose, but I also get to interact with people.

What do you like best about the arts and your profession?

I love working with artists. They see the world differently and challenge us not to accept things as they are.

What does a curator do?

A curator works with artists and objects to create exhibits. It's like a director shooting a movie.

How do you make art accessible, especially to children and college students?

I actually prefer the word approachable. There's quite a bit a curator can do to present art. Oftentimes, it's a very simple gesture of how you're greeted at the visitor's desk. My mission in life, quite frankly, is to help people understand the profound benefits of making art a part of their everyday life.

Should museums be funded by private donors or taxpayers?

The days of government- funded art projects are over. The reality is we need private individuals to make art accessible to all.

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Read more articles by Richard Chang

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