The Whatcom Museum in Bellingham is pleased to announce the addition of four new staff members. In the fall, the Museum hired Sarah Hart as the Education and Engagement Manager, Drew Whatley as the Museum Educator and Cyndi O’Brien as the Family Interactive Gallery Educator and Floor Supervisor. Joining the Museum staff this January is Amy Chaloupka as Curator of Art.
The new staff members bring a broad range of art, history and educational backgrounds, important for the Museum’s multi-disciplinary programs and exhibitions. Their expertise and professionalism will support the Museum’s mission of providing interactive and engaging experiences about art, nature and Northwest history to people of all ages.
Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sarah Hart graduated from the University of Denver with a Master in Curriculum and Instruction and has worked both in schools and museums. She was most recently the Coordinator of Tour Programs at the Denver Art Museum. Hart said, “I am devoted to creating engaging and thoughtful programming for learners of all ages and am excited about the new opportunities the Whatcom Museum presents to be innovative, daring and creative. I am also so happy to be in Bellingham and invigorated by Whatcom County and the surrounding areas.”
Drew Whatley joins the Museum from Orange, Texas, where he had been working as an Educator for Public History at the Stark Foundation. Whatley has a Bachelor of Art in History with a minor in Classics, and a Master of Arts in Teaching, both from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. With a background in both history and teaching, he designs programs, leads field trips and enjoys making history come alive for people of all ages. Whatley’s excited about learning the cultures and unique history of this area while considering new and innovative ways to share that information with both children and adults.
Cyndi O’Brien has an extensive background in environmental education and has spent many years teaching outdoor nature school and wilderness living skills to people of all ages, from preschool children to adults. Most recently she was an educational consultant and lead educator with the Fidalgo Nature School. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Education and said she is “delighted to work in a place where she can combine her passions for art, education and nature.”
“We are delighted to build our Museum’s educational impact with such an experienced group of museum professionals,” said Executive Director Patricia Leach. “Their skills will result in wonderful offering for our community.”
In addition to the new education team members, the Museum hired a new Curator of Art, Amy Chaloupka. A familiar name to the organization, Chaloupka guest-curated the exhibition Colorfast: Vivid Installations Make Their Mark for the Whatcom Museum in 2016. The exhibition featured large-scale installations created by four artists. Chaloupka’s careful planning, research and conceptualization of the exhibition were integral to the success of the show.
Chaloupka has more than 10 years of experience curating in museum settings, taking complex and creative exhibition concepts and transforming them into dynamic and approachable experiences for diverse audiences. She received her Bachelor of Fine Art from Western Washington University and a Master of Fine Art in Sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has exhibited widely and created several public works, including permanent installations in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Chicago, Illinois and Madison, Wisconsin.
“The Museum is thrilled to bring on board such a talented, creative and thoughtful curator of art with a stellar reputation,” said Leach. “It is wonderful that our museum staff had already worked with Amy previously for the Colorfast exhibition.”
Chaloupka serves on the Arts Commission for the City of Bellingham, lectures and teaches within the Art and Art History Department at Western Washington University and curates museum exhibitions, most recently: Crossover: Cruce de Vias, at the Western Gallery at Western Washington University in 2015 and Nek Chand: The World In A Garden at the Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 2017. She is also an independent curator for Kloop Studios, a design and curatorial consultancy based in Bellingham. Her most recent project has been leading the design of two permanent collection exhibition spaces for the Kohler Arts Center’s new Art Preserve building, slated to open in the Fall of 2020.
Of her new position at the Whatcom Museum, Chaloupka said, “I could not be more excited to hit the ground running and carry forth the Museum’s mission to develop dynamic and interactive programming related to our cultural, natural and historical landscapes. I am passionate about making art accessible and inclusive to the broadest audiences possible and provide opportunities for thoughtful conversation and increased understanding for one another. I am excited for the opportunity to collaborate with my new colleagues and connect with our community in this way through the arts.”
The Whatcom Museum takes a multi-pronged approach to developing and displaying exhibitions. The process from exhibit proposal to installation to take-down involve a variety of people, from the director of exhibitions to the curator of art to the exhibition committee to the executive director. The Museum presents art and history exhibitions that are curated in-house, guest-curated or traveling from other museums and organizations. This approach allows for a broad variety of perspectives, artwork and stories to be shared. Chaloupka will be an integral member of the exhibition team, both curating exhibitions, as well as providing critical support to traveling and guest-curated exhibitions.