Q&A with Connie Wolf

Aug. 4, 2011, 2:02 a.m.

The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts appointed Connie Wolf ’81 its new director; she will replace current director Thomas Seligman when he retires Dec. 31 after 20 years at the helm of the museum.

Wolf left Stanford with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies with a focus in art history and has been working in the arts ever since. For the past 13 years, she led the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum, which grew from a 2,500-square-foot building to a 63,000-square-foot museum under her leadership.

The Daily spoke with Wolf about her new position at Cantor.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): How has your time at the Contemporary Jewish Museum prepared you for your upcoming role at the Cantor Arts Center?

Connie Wolf (CW): I really feel like the past 13 years have given me great insight into thinking about the role that museums play in this community. I look forward to going to the Cantor, where I can bring some of my experiences working with artists, working with the broader community, developing projects with scholars and find new ways of thinking about that extraordinary collection and the legacy of the Cantor. I take an interdisciplinary approach to art, and it’s something that I feel is really exciting and dynamic for an audience in thinking about the way in which different disciplines can be, can provide new lenses into thinking about art and ideas.

TSD: What do you see as Cantor’s greatest strengths?

CW: Well, I think some of the greatest strengths is that it is really an extraordinary museum with a very strong reputation. It’s got great collections, and it has a very dedicated and loyal group of members and volunteers that I find really impressive and exciting to work with. You’ve got this incredible facility, you’ve got this amazing collection and you’ve got this great group of people who are loyal and dedicated and committed to the arts through the Cantor. That’s a great combination.

TSD: Are there some weaknesses you think need to be addressed?

CW: I wouldn’t call them weaknesses. I think there are a couple of opportunities looking forward, because I think what’s exciting to me is the way in which there is going to be sort of a new arts corridor…So, the way in which the Cantor can be a centerpiece and provide linkages to all of these and be a real meeting point, I think that is something that is really exciting and something that can really be a centerpiece to how the arts are accessed and used on campus and beyond.

TSD: Do you have any favorite exhibits or pieces at Cantor?

CW: I’ve always been so moved by the work of Eadweard Muybridge, the photographer that Leland Stanford was really a big supporter of, and I know that Cantor really has a very strong collection. Museums can never show everything that is in their collection. So, what I’m excited about is learning from the curators about what treasures there are that we don’t often get to see, don’t often get to be seen by the public.

TSD: Are there any new artistic directions you would hope to see the museum take over the next years?

CW: Well, I think that it’s going on a great path. But, for example, I want to be thinking more innovatively about technology and figuring out ways to connect what’s happening in the museum to other departments around campus and other ways of thinking. I’m looking forward to just learning more about what’s going differently on campus now than when I was a student and really just finding ways [to explore] the values of Stanford University: innovation, boldness, creativity, entrepreneurship. Those characteristics will be embodied by the Cantor in its next chapter.

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