The Museum is excited to welcome our new manager of public programs, Lana Beardslee, to the BMA staff. She brings a wealth of arts education experience and enthusiasm to our team, and in the few months that she has been here, Beardslee has already planned and successfully hosted several BMA programs. Her top priority at the moment? Launching the Museum’s latest event series, Art After 5, which gives visitors a new way to experience the Museum after hours, but we’ll let her tell you more about that.
Birmingham Museum of Art: When did you first become interested in art?
Lana Beardslee: I have always been interested in the practice of art and dabbled in different mediums, but in college I took an introductory art history course and realized I loved learning the history of objects. Art history is the perfect practice for me because I get to be a history nerd, but I am still able to nurture my creative side.
BMA: You have a lot of experience in art education. Can you tell us more about your background?
LB: I received my Master’s degree in Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. Then, I spent about four years teaching art history. I taught subjects varying from the Italian Renaissance to Pre-Columbian to performance art in the 1970’s. My favorite class was my contemporary art seminar. I taught that class for four years, and every semester I would get to expose students to the wild world of contemporary art. Introducing students to artists like Marina Abramović or Janine Antoni is the most fun an art historian can have. It’s exciting to show a college student a completely abstract painting for the first time and teach them that it’s full of meaning and purpose. One of my favorite paintings to do that with is Jasper Johns’ Corpse and Mirror II. It’s in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, and when I taught at SAIC, I was able to take my students into the gallery to see it. Nothing beats that. No matter how hard you try, teaching from a digital image is nowhere near as meaningful as taking your students to experience art in the real world. Birmingham is very lucky to have the BMA as a resource for educators in the area. And our collection is so diverse!
BMA: What is your favorite part about working in art education and programming?
LB: Exposing people to art. It may sound simple, but I am so lucky to work in a museum and be inspired by creativity every day. I want to share that feeling with everyone! As manager of public programs, it’s my job to create dynamic and interesting programs that bring people through the doors so everyone can experience all the Museum has to offer.
BMA: We hear that you have big plans for BMA programs. Can you give us the inside scoop?
LB: My main focus in these first few months has been the debut of our new program After After 5, which we launched this month. This after hours event will be held every first Friday of the month from 5-9 pm. The museum is only open one night a month, and I want to make it as fun and engaging as possible. Each night we will feature a local musician, special tours in the galleries, adult art activities, and special signature cocktails created just for the occasion! Visitors will also have access to the entire Museum and our restaurant, Oscar’s Cafe, will be serving up some delicious treats. Birmingham is such a great city and I want to give people more opportunities to have fun here at the Museum!
BMA: What are you most excited about in your new position?
LB: I’m very excited to be working with such an awesome team. Most of us in the education department are fairly new, myself being the most recent addition, and we have a lot of fresh and exciting ideas for the Museum’s future! I’m also super excited for Third Space, an exhibition opening in January 2017. Third Space is the first large exhibition of contemporary art from the Museum’s own collection, and it’s going to be amazing.
BMA: You come to us from Chicago and you’re originally from California, but this isn’t your first time to call the South home. What are you most looking forward to about being back?
LB: I love how friendly people are in the South and the strong sense of community everyone has. I also love fried pickles.