Almost a year after becoming a part of the University of West Florida, the Pensacola Museum of Art now has a new leader. Amy Bowman-McElhone is the new Director and Chief Curator at the museum. "I thought it was a really exciting opportunity especially with the museum coming under the preview of the university. And museums that bridge the community and the university audiences are my bread and butter, that's the space [where] I like to operate. So I thought that this was just an opportunity that I couldn't pass up."
Bowman-McElhone is not new to Pensacola or the university. From 2009-12, she served as the director and curator of The Art Gallery at UWF. She left to pursue her PhD in Art History at Florida State. Now she’s in charge of taking the downtown museum to the next level. "Typically, museums that are associated with universities [are] built on the campus of the university and are conceived through university channels. This is a really unique situation where we have an existing community museum that's now part of a university. it's sort of a hybrid model, and there's not a lot of to look at [for guidance] which is daunting but exciting as well because the possibilities are endless."
And those possibilities include taking work from the university and making it available to audiences in downtown Pensacola. She also wants to make the museum a big part of the learning experience for a wide variety of students. "One of [our] big priorities is creating experiential learning opportunities for students, whether it's with the graphic design students to design exhibitions, or working with Nick Croghan, the current Director at the Art Gallery at UWF, and his students to work in installations and that component. We have multiple curatorial interns from the university working with us this summer, and I tell the faculty [at UWF] as well as at [Pensacola State College] that I would like the museum to be an extension of your classroom. I would like you and the students to come down and feel comfortable in the space. To use it as another learning resource and educational resource. And I want the community to feel that aspect as well. In every public museum, education is an important component of the mission and now that is even more emphasized."
Many of the current and coming exhibitions were already in the works when Bowman-McElhone took over. But she hopes to put her mark on the museum soon. And what would be her dream exhibition? She says it's an impossible question to answer, but she gives it a shot.
"My expertise is modern and contemporary art. I also study curatorial theory and also art in the public realm. So it could really touch on anything. Currently I'm working on my PhD, and the topic of my dissertation is Mike Kelly, who is a contemporary artist based out in Los Angeles. So right now, given that I'm completely absorbed in the life and work of Mike Kelly I would say a Mike Kelly exhibition."
The Pensacola Museum of Art is located downtown at the corner of Main and Jefferson streets. It’s summer exhibitions include Piece by Piece - Art with LEGO Bricks by Sean Kenney and Metaphor as Manifestation - An Exhibition of Prints by Jasper Johns and Robert Motherwell. There are also summer camps for students.