In With The New

The new Harbor Art Gallery Director Tara McCauley seen standing beside a mural. - Photo by Shaun Krisher

The new Harbor Art Gallery Director Tara McCauley seen standing beside a mural. – Photo by Shaun Krisher

MiMi Yeh

Change is not something by which those who attend UMass Boston are ever surprised. With a revolving door administration and the retirement of many faculty, as well as the constant influx of transfer students, the UMass community is no stranger to transformations large and small. However, one place has managed to maintain some consistency in these torrid times.

Located on the first floor of McCormack, the Harbor Art Gallery’s front windows are often used for personal care and maintenance and not much more. It is one of the best-kept and oft-overlooked spots for quiet on campus considering how obvious it is. However, the static flow now has a few waves in it with the first new director in three years.

Tara McCauley, an art history major, has come in to replace the former director, alumnus Ian Boyd. McCauley is an Eastern Washington College transfer student who dropped into UMB last spring and has every intention of remaining for a while. “I thought it would be an interesting experience to work on the curatorial side of things,” she said. McCauley is already intimately familiar with the workings of museums from her former residence in rainy Seattle where she worked in both the Bellevue Art Museum and the Frye Art Museum.

“I’d like to work in museums forever or non profit art centers creating curriculum and programming to help people access art. A lot of art is incomprehensible, especially contemporary art.” In pointing out the value of maintaining educational programs she said, “Art is getting cut from so many public schools these days.”

Her favorite styles are contemporary and Tuscan Renaissance. “Artists I admire are David Hockney; Matisse, his cutouts are my particular favorite; Paul Klee; Bernini, a sculptor and architect; and Alex Katz, his prints and paintings. Chris Burden is a performance artist I’m intrigued by, [his shows] generally involve hurting himself. He’s been shot and electrocuted himself.”

The discussion got interesting when she said, “I have a not-quite phobia. I have nightmares about my teeth falling out or going to the dentist and seeing pictures of teeth rotting out. Little kids with teeth falling out, forget it. I fell off a merry go round when I was seven and knocked out all my teeth. Maybe that’s where it comes from?”

Eventually, we talked about whether and how she planned to run things differently. “I want to raise student awareness and interest and get as many people coming through here as possible. I want to bring in art that is unexpected so that you won’t necessarily be looking at paintings on the wall, interactive.” Like wrestling match interactive, I inquired. “If I heard a proposal I might be interested.”

Joking aside, my curiosity was piqued. What exactly fell under the umbrella of “interactive”? “The next show coming up in the gallery is an installation piece with beds, a simulated interior of a bathroom. You can walk around, interact with the art from a lot of different angles but I don’t want to focus on two-dimensional versus three-dimensional. The mural, for example, I wanted to do something that was big, eye-catching, exciting, and youthful and different. Something that you might not necessarily expect.”

McCauley likes to take a light approach to art, though not on all issues as an upcoming display will cover domestic violence. Perhaps it is because of her background and work with children that she wants there to be less of somber take on art. She wants a gallery filled with loud, laughing people without the strictly silent atmosphere of a library. “I want to bring life into spaces where there is art.”