For Jill Snyder, directing a museum is all about striking a balance between the establishment and the artist.
“We come at (this) from different angles. Fundamentally, I manage an institution,” she said. “An artist, fundamentally, is conceiving and creating a creative strategy. But really, we are partners.”
Snyder has been the executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland for the last 22 years. She will be speaking at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 28 in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, for the inaugural Leon and Gloria Plevin Family Museum Director Lecture.
The new annual lecture is endowed by Cleveland-based artist and longtime Chautauquan Gloria Plevin.
Plevin, who visited the Institution with her family for 50 years, said establishing the lectureship was a way to give back to Chautauqua and commemorate the life of her late husband, Leon Plevin.
“My husband was very supportive of me and he was also very enthusiastic about Chautauqua,” she said. “He knew how much it had meant to our family and I thought that this would be a nice way to honor him.”
Plevin and Snyder are connected through more than just the Cleveland art community; they have been neighbors and friends for years.
“Gloria has this very beloved presence in the Cleveland art world,” Snyder said. “It was so wonderful to discover her second life in Chautauqua.”
Snyder is no stranger to the Institution herself.
“As a Clevelander in the cultural world, you kind of gravitate to Chautauqua,” she said. “I think there has not been a summer that I’ve not been at Chautauqua one way or another.”
In her lecture, titled, “Are You An Artist? Reflections of a Museum Director,” Snyder will discuss how art museum directors are working to engage with communities and make their institutions more inclusive spaces.
“Those working in the contemporary art field as museum directors are finding a strong alliance in working with artists to achieve shared goals around engagement, around inclusion, around equity,” she said.
For some museums, Snyder said this means acknowledging a less inclusive past.
“In the art museums that are older and established and collection-based, (there is a move) to also recognize a history of a … patriarchal position,” she said. “Whether intentionally or not, there was a perception of the museums being exclusionary.”
Snyder said one of the most exciting things about working in contemporary art is collaborating with living artists, something traditional art museums are taking note of.
“I think that you see through the art museum field more encyclopedic and historically based museums are using contemporary artists to work in activating the historic collections,” she said.
She said she is excited to see the new developments at the School of Art this year, headed by Sharon Louden, artistic director and Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel artistic director of the visual arts.
“I think Sharon is bringing vibrancy to the visual arts program. … She is coming in with a lens of diversity and inclusion,” Snyder said. “Intense introduction of diversity can only benefit and strengthen the Chautauquan community.”