Lisa Corrin to end term as WCMA director; will transition to teaching

On Jan. 26, President Falk announced in an all-campus e-mail that Lisa Corrin, director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), will step down from her position on June 30 to teach at the College as well as serve as a Clark Fellow at The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and mentor students at New York University. “It has been my dream to have an opportunity to be a scholar and an educator full-time,” Corrin said.

“I have been fortunate in that the positions I have held have really challenged me, and I have gone from opportunity to opportunity without a break since I entered the museum profession,” she continued. “I recognize that my next creative challenge may well require of me a great deal in terms of time and energy, and I want to be mentally prepared for that. One of the best ways to do that is to take a step back and reflect on what it is that I am most passionate about, what kind of roles might play to my strengths as a professional and also how I want to live my life, and being able to be a scholar full-time is a luxury. I’ve been calling it my Eat, Pray, Love year.”

Corrin has served as the director of WCMA for six years, during which she’s focused her efforts on accomplishing a number of specific goals. “[My] number one goal was to further deepen the connection between the museum and all of the departments on campus,” Corrin said. “Our principle stakeholder is of course the art department, but I’ve been very proud of the collaborations we’ve had with [the] math, neuroscience, chemistry, Russian studies and Africana studies [departments] and the way so many of our staff have helped reach out to faculty and students.”

Another goal of Corrin’s included the assurance that WCMA would remain a relevant institution as the student body and curriculum of the College continues to evolve. Corrin said that she has achieved this goal, as WCMA received funding from a number of major institutions during the course of her directorship. “I am very proud that we received over $1 million from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to endow a Mellon Curatorial Fellow for Diversity in the Arts,” Corrin said. Other entities from which WCMA received funding included the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

Corrin also worked hard to build up the College’s public art program, an initiative that will soon be made apparent by the two commissioned artworks to be installed in the spring. The first is a sculpture by nationally acclaimed artist Jenny Holzer, which will be placed in the science quad, while the second is a sculpture by George Rickey that has been purchased by the Class of ’61 in honor of its 50th reunion.

The museum has featured over 75 exhibitions since Corrin’s arrival, some of which have traveled nationally and internationally. Corrin said one of her favorite exhibitions was “Jackson Pollock at Williams College: A Tribute to Kirk Varnedoe ’67” because it connected both to WCMA’s past and showed the community that “WCMA has always been out on the edge in thinking of the history of art.”

Another prominent exhibit was “Drowned in a Glass of Water: An Installation by Pepón Osorio,” which was commissioned this past summer. Corrin said the exhibit was “another example of connecting art to the community of which we live, and [it] encouraged our students to look beyond the boundaries of Williamstown.” Corrin said that she likes to think of WCMA as “a cross-roads of the community,” adding that the Pepón Osorio project supported this notion.

The most recent renovations to WCMA are a source of pride for Corrin. “[The museum] is a model that will be studied and debated because it is innovative,” she said. “[The WCMA staff has] chosen art works that in some cases have never been seen in the museum. In addition, we have 50 additions from the Yale University Art Gallery and they have done a great job integrating them. It’s a really impressive achievement.”

Student engagement with the museum has also been a focal point of Corrin’s career. “The majority of exhibitions that take place at the Museum have either student interns that work with our curators and educators or are student-curated,” she said. “The whole point of a college museum is to prepare the next generation to take the helm. The more student engagement in the museum, the more we are meeting our mission. We exist for the students. I like to say to the students, ‘It’s your museum; own it.’”

Corrin has also worked hard to engage the faculty of the College. “It’s really meaningful to WCMA to support faculty research and to be able to bring to public attention the incredible scholarly talents of the people who teach here,” she said. “We’ve done a number of those kinds of collaborations.”

Finally, Corrin has helped the museum to interact positively with the greater community. “I’ve been a very outspoken supporter of the role that Williams College can play in serving the broader community,” she said. “I think when you’re a privileged college and you’re one of the main economic engines in a rural area, you have an obligation to serve the community in which you’re located.”

Corrin said that perhaps one of the most important things her time at the College has given her was the opportunity to meet her husband. “When I was offered the job at Williams, one of the college trustees met with me in Seattle and he was very keen on my coming to WCMA, and I said to him that I had no doubt that this would be a great job in a great place at a great college, but I was single at the time,” Corrin said. She added that she thought it would be hard to cultivate a social life far away from a city. However, everything seemed to work out well for her. “I not only met my goals, but I met my husband [Visiting Professor of Humanities Peter Erickson] my first year here,” she said. “No matter what I do in my career, Williams will be very close to my heart because it helped me find my life partner.”

A national search will soon take place in order to find Corrin’s successor. “The search will be taken very seriously because [the College] wants someone who will uphold Williams’ standards of excellence and have a deep understanding of our mission as a teaching institution,” she said. “We have such a great history that I have no doubt that we will receive an outstanding group of applicants. This is a place that truly supports what this museum does.”
student body and curriculum of the College continues to evolve. Corrin said that she has achieved this goal, as WCMA received funding from a number of major institutions during the course of her directorship.

“I am very proud that we received over $1 million from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to endow a Mellon Curatorial Fellow for Diversity in the Arts,” Corrin said.
Other organizations from which WCMA received funding include the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
Corrin also worked hard to build up the College’s public art program, an initiative that will soon be made apparent by the two commissioned exhibits to be installed in the spring. The first is a sculpture by nationally-acclaimed artist Jenny Holzer, which will be placed in the science quad, while the second is a sculpture by George Rickey that has been purchased by the Class of ’61 in honor of its 50th reunion.

The museum has featured over 75 exhibitions since Corrin’s arrival, some of which have traveled nationally and internationally. Corrin said one of her favorite exhibitions was “Jackson Pollock at Williams College: A Tribute to Kirk Varnedoe ’67” because it both connected to WCMA’s past and showed the community that “WCMA has always been out on the edge in thinking of the history of art.”
Another prominent exhibit was “Drowned in a Glass of Water: An Installation by Pepón Osorio,” which was commissioned this past summer. Corrin said the exhibit was “another example of connecting art to the community [in which we live], and [it] encouraged our students to look beyond the boundaries of Williamstown.”Corrin said that she likes to think of WCMA as “a crossroads of the community,” adding that the Pepón Osorio project supported this notion.

The most recent renovations to WCMA are a source of pride for Corrin. “[The museum] is a model that will be studied and debated because it is innovative,” she said. “[The WCMA staff has] chosen art works that in some cases have never been seen in the museum. In addition, we have 50 additions from the Yale University Art Gallery and they have done a great job integrating them. It’s a really impressive achievement.”

Student engagement with the museum has also been a focal point of Corrin’s career.

“The majority of exhibitions that take place at the Museum have either student interns that work with our curators and educators or are student-curated,” she said. “The whole point of a college museum is to prepare the next generation to take the helm. The more student engagement in the museum, the more we are meeting our mission. We exist for the students. I like to say to the students, ‘It’s your museum; own it.’”

Corrin has also worked hard to engage the faculty of the College. “It’s really meaningful to WCMA to support faculty research and to be able to bring to public attention the incredible scholarly talents of the people who teach here,” she said. “We’ve done a number of those kinds of collaborations.”
Finally, Corrin has helped the museum to interact positively with the greater community. “I’ve been a very outspoken supporter of the role that Williams College can play in serving the broader community,” she said. “I think when you’re a privileged college and you’re one of the main economic engines in a rural area, you have an obligation to serve the community in which you’re located.”
Corrin said that perhaps one of the most important things her time at the College has given her was the opportunity to meet her husband. “When I was offered the job at Williams, one of the college trustees met with me in Seattle and he was very keen on my coming to WCMA, and I said to him that I had no doubt that this would be a great job in a great place at a great college, but I was single at the time,” Corrin said. She added that she thought it would be hard to cultivate a social life far away from a city. However, everything seemed to work out well for her. “I not only met my goals, but I met my husband [Visiting Professor of Humanities Peter Erickson] my first year here,” she said. “No matter what I do in my career, Williams will be very close to my heart because it helped me find my life partner.”

A national search will soon take place in order to find Corrin’s successor. “The search will be taken very seriously because [the College] wants someone who will uphold Williams’ standards of excellence and have a deep understanding of our mission as a teaching institution,” she said. “We have such a great history that I have no doubt that we will receive an outstanding group of applicants. This is a place that truly supports what this museum does.”

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