At about 8:30 a.m. last Monday, Erin Coe arrived for her first day of work at the Palmer Museum of Art, where her name and the title of “director” are now more or less interchangeable.
Coe is the former director of the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, N.Y., and is a big believer in vision — not the kind that comes in real handy when you’re wandering the aisles of the Palmer but honest-to-goodness lightning bolt to the brain-box style inspiration.
When she accepted the gig last summer, Coe pitched moving a few things around — specifically, the entire museum — and worked with the Palmer’s team of veteran curators to shrink the distance between the front door and an extensive collection of American art.
“We took the last gallery you would encounter and we made it the first,” Coe said.
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We took the last gallery you would encounter and we made it the first.
You see, in addition to being a big believer in vision, Coe is also fan of action. Aligning the museum with her passions as an Americanist and a gut-level intuition that the Palmer should lead with its strengths — that’s all just strategy.
Getting it all done before she walked in the door on Monday morning is conviction.
“I wasn’t convinced they could do it,” Coe said.
“They” includes curators Joyce Robinson and Adam Thomas, who helped to reshuffle the Palmer’s permanent collection over the summer, while the museum was closed to accommodate an update to the building’s water treatment equipment.
The doors reopened earlier this month, and Robinson thinks that exciting times lie ahead.
“I’m excited about the energy and enthusiasm that Erin brings to the position, along with her considerable experience as a former curator and director of a major collection. By way of this reinstallation she’s already made a significant impact, and she’s only just started,” Robinson said.
Meanwhile, Coe is preparing to embark on what she’s coined as her “listening tour” — learning the culture of the museum, interacting with stakeholders and other new-kid-on-the-block stuff.
She has a strong commitment to community engagement and the visitor experience, which will allow the museum to expand on the programming already offered and help us to reach an even bigger audience.
Should everything go according to plan, Coe won’t be the only fresh face wandering into the Palmer.
Barbara Korner, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, believes that Coe’s experience as an administrator, fundraiser and curator will help the museum continue to grow into the future.
“She has a strong commitment to community engagement and the visitor experience, which will allow the museum to expand on the programming already offered and help us to reach an even bigger audience,” Korner said.
That last part would suit Coe just fine. She hails from the Capital region of New York, where it’s difficult to travel within a 75-mile radius and not encounter another museum.
Now that Coe is in central Pennsylvania, she’d like to see the Palmer become a hub for the area’s arts and cultural scene.
“The Palmer, in my estimation, should be the leader,” Coe said.