Voices of the Arts: Ogden's William Pittman Andrews
Voices of the Arts, a series presented by NolaVie and WWNO radio, explores the thoughts and visions of eight new arts leaders in New Orleans. Through conversations we try to understand how they will engage with the arts and the artists in this already vibrant cultural community; how they view us; what their goals are for their organizations; and what big plans are on their horizons.
Today meet William Pittman Andrews, 41, Director of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Born in Starkville, MS, he obtained both his B.A and his MFA from the University of Mississippi. A painter, former gallery owner and museum director, he comes to the Ogden from Oxford, MS where he was the Director of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses.
On New Orleans Cultural Life: It’s never been quite foreign territory or a strange land, although New Orleans is an exciting and unusual place. It’s very different from any other city in the American south, or in the United States or anywhere else in the world. One of the most interesting things to me about the city that I’m still exploring is the actual physical differences in between all of the areas that make up the city. In such a short time you can drive from one end of the city to the other but you feel like you have experienced five distinct very specific communities with different cultural identities, different landmarks, different people, different fabrics. It’s just a wonderful thing to experience. Our relationship to the University of New Orleans is an important one to the Ogden Museum because we consider ourselves the University’s largest classroom. The University of New Orleans and the Ogden Museum were born of the concept that an educational institution needs an academic arm in the urban environment that is heavily cultural with a wide array of educational opportunities.
On goals for the Ogden Museum: Any museum has a primary goal to be relevant. So you have to pay attention so that you’re not constrained by the geography and that you see beyond that. There’s no real formula for that. Even though we have a very strong mission – an international mission with an international appeal – we still have the opportunity to continue to chart our course as we’re sailing it.
On how to handle the financial challenges: For a long time I heard any cultural funding in the community is like a pie; that the pie has only a certain number of slices and there is no more pie. The flaw in thinking that way is that we’re not thinking of us as the bakers of the pie. We’re not the consumers of the pie; we’re the ones that are making it. When you consider the financial challenges of what we have to focus on, how do we make that pie infinitely large? How do we make it bigger so that there’s more opportunity for plates at the table and people at the table? It’s a concept that takes a lot of thought because it’s different and change is not always easy, but it is always constant.
On big plans for the future: One of the big plans involves more collaborative efforts with our partners here in this city so that everyone can see how their missions overlap and to serve the public. In the museum, we’re always talking big plans. You have to look around the curve into the future and envision the road map of where you want to be and how you want to get there. We’re looking forward to collaborating with Prospect in the next biennial, and the upcoming Tricentennial (of New Orleans) which we’re already thinking about.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]