The MacKenzie Art Gallery Welcomes Anthony Kiendl
Article: Liam Fitz-Gerald – Contributor
In May 2014, Anthony Kiendl takes over as the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s CEO. His experience includes Executive Director at Plug-In Institute of Contemporary Art in Winnipeg, and curator of Contour in the United Kingdom. He is not unfamiliar with Saskatchewan. Between 1997 and 2002, he served as curator of the Dunlop Art Gallery. He has lectured and taught at the University of Regina and Manitoba and put together copious numbers of art exhibits, including Godzilla vs. Skateboarders, here in Regina. I was fortunate last week to chat with him and ask him about his return to Saskatchewan.
Kiendl is thrilled about returning to Saskatchewan, having enjoyed his time at Dunlop. He is very excited to work at the MacKenzie Art Gallery.
“I think it’s one of Canada’s leading public art galleries,” he said. “The facility is really outstanding. I’ve traveled across Canada and to different countries,” Kiendl says. “In terms of the infrastructure and presenting art in a world class setting it is really a director’s dream to work with a well-equipped facility.”
He praises the McKenzie Art Gallery for possessing “a great history” with its exhibitions remembered years after people see them.
On changing or adding anything to the Gallery, Kiendl seeks broader community involvement. His goal is to expand “appeal and interest” on “the strengths that are already there” at the gallery.
“Art is really a form of information. By providing access to art, we foster the development of the community, its improved social well-being and by extension its health.”
Kiendl believes a robust, broad interest in the arts is evidence of a healthy community. Yet, some segments of society argue that public funds for the arts are not worthwhile and should be placed elsewhere. During the 2008 election, the Tories caused an uproar by saying they would cut public funding to arts. Kiendl, however, is not worried about these segments, believing them to be a “minority.”
“When people see a reflection of themselves in the galleries and in the art, that argument begins to dissolve.”
Nations and states around the world, he reminds me, have a long tradition of funding arts and culture. During the 2008 election, the public outcry against proposed funding cuts reversed some policies with the government.
“It changed the policy of the Harper government, which since then, has been very supportive of the arts. In the subsequent election, they came back very pro arts and culture. They didn’t cut the Canada council in the last budget,” Kiendl said.
Still, Kiendl seeks to expand revenue for the Gallery. The government, he hopes, will be one source of funding amongst many, including individuals and corporations.
Kiendl believes he is best suited for the job.
“Given my track record, what I’ve really excelled at is moving forward organizations at the cusp of transformational change, and I am qualified with the skill sets that can establish a vision and move organization to that new vision.”
He plans to work closely with the staff at the Gallery, whom he gives much praise to. He believes it is not just his good listening skills, but his pragmatism, that will benefit the gallery.
Ultimately, Kiendl hopes the gallery can be “a centre for intellectual creativity, and curiosity” and create “knowledge and new knowledge related to the arts and other facets of our community.”