Archive for Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thoughtful decision-maker accepts Kemper position

September 10, 2009

“I have been offered and accepted the position as curator at the Kemper Museum,” she writes.

My heart skips a beat.

She continues that they will arrive in Kansas City Sept. 1 and she will begin work Sept. 15. She delayed making her final decision until after a trip to Cape Cod to meet the founder of the museum.

My niece, Barbara O’Brien, has been careful and thoughtful in making her decision, as she is in making most of her decisions. She will be good for the Kemper; she is multitalented. Most recently, she was on the faculty in the art department at Simmons College, where she headed up the arts administration program and was director of the Trustman Art Gallery.

Her bio reads, “O’Brien is a curator and art critic with a track record of scholarship, influence and advocacy for artists.” Previously, she was editor in chief of Art New England Magazine. In 2005, she was a visiting scholar at Brandeis University’s Women and Gender Studies Research Center.

My niece will be good for the Kemper and Kansas City and my hope is that Kansas City and the Kemper will be good for her. She is a woman who seeks a challenge and whose history suggests that she has high standards and will expect those working with and for her to meet, even exceed, those standards. She is exacting in her thinking.

I remember well the day I met her. I was 10 and she was a toddler. Her mother and younger sister moved home from Boston because her father had taken ill and was moved to the VA hospital in Leavenworth. She was walking ahead of her mother, who was carrying her younger sister. Barbara was carrying a black and white panda bear that was as big as she was. It was a metaphorical walk; she has walked ahead of us from the time I first met her. She has carried burdens as large as, or larger than, herself, and done so successfully.

She was one of the first graduates of the women’s studies program at Kansas University – a program I helped pioneer as a graduate student. Her Bachelor of Arts degree was in women’s and gender Studies from KU; her Master of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design.

She is a gifted woman and was a gifted child. While her younger sister was hanging from tree limbs with a comic book stuffed in her back pocket, Barbara was sitting at the kitchen table engaging me in a serious discussion of world events or some philosophical question that was plaguing her 4-year-old mind. I knew better than to go on with whatever I was doing when she would look up at me and say that she had something on her mind.

She has something in mind now and I am listening. And proud, I am so very proud.

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