Hood curator nationally recognized
By Connor Watumull
Published on Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Lesley Wellman, curator of education at the Hood Museum of Art, was named the 2012 National Museum Art Educator of the Year by the National Art Education Association in June for her contributions to museum education. Wellman received the award in March at the NAEA national convention in New York City.
Since she began working at the Hood in 1990, Wellman has strived to enhance how museum patrons experience, understand and engage with a variety of art forms, she said. She has introduced new forms of audience-art interaction and provided resources for students, administrators, artists and historians to better understand the Hood’s collections.
The NAEA — an organization composed of curators, teachers, university professors, administrators, historians and artists — is the leading membership organization for art education professionals. From 2007 to 2011, Wellman served as director-elect and later director of NAEA’s Museum Division, which is devoted to enhancing museums’ efficacy as spaces of education and understanding.
During her time as director, Wellman provided direction for museum administrators across the country.
“She was a strong and influential voice in shaping NAEA position statements which articulate the association’s position on key issues of national importance,” Anne Manning, Wellman’s successor and the current director of NAEA’s Museum Division, said.
Several of Wellman’s colleagues noted her dedication to facilitating communication between various departments.
“Her ability to articulate big ideas with simplicity, practicality and often beauty, and to help others to do the same, is just one of her many leadership skills,” Manning said.
Wellman said that her experience afforded her invaluable insight into the politics and functioning of national museum spaces, which has allowed her to introduce effective, innovative and thoughtful practices at the Hood.
“My years of experience in the NAEA enriched my knowledge so that I can pour that right back into the museum,” Wellman said.
Wellman’s selection as Art Educator of the Year highlights the Hood’s importance as a space of artistic exhibition, dialogue and education on a national stage. For decades, the Hood has provided the Dartmouth and Upper Valley communities unique opportunities to engage with art, and it serves as one of New England’s premier spaces for exhibition, research and education.
Wellman said that the Hood’s double function as both exhibition space and classroom is what makes the museum and her role as its curator unique. Wellman’s current responsibilities as curator of education include creating content, choosing which works the museum acquires and displays and providing resources to students to help them engage with art.
“There is often a difference between college-based and public museums,” Wellman said. “When you’re on a college campus, it’s all about teaching and learning.”
Although Wellman’s contributions to the Hood have considerably enhanced the way the College community appreciates and engages with art, perhaps her greatest impact has been on the wider Upper Valley community. During her tenure, she has strengthened the Hood’s regional influence and importance by providing opportunities for senior citizens, children, teens and other members of the local New Hampshire and Vermont communities to visit the Hood’s collections and participate in lectures and activities.
“My goal is to find ways to help visitors have meaningful connections with the art,” she said. “In its simplest form, I think of it as art plus people.”