When celebrated curator Lowery Stokes Sims announced her retirement from the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) after more than seven years, she left some big shoes to fill. The art world wondered who would fill those shoes and how the new chief curator would carry the museum forward.
Earlier this year, MAD announced that Shannon Stratton would helm the New York-based institution, relocating her from Chicago, where she was the founder and executive director of Threewalls, a contemporary arts organization that presents exhibitions and public programs, and provides grants and resources to artists.
“Setting up Threewalls gave me a pretty significant breadth of experience,” says Stratton, “who is also an adjunct associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “You’re fundraising, building a board, vision and curatorial direction, trying to build an audience and trying to situate an organization within the contemporary arts here. In a way, you’re doing everything.”
Her new role, which starts in mid-June, will be more focused on curating MAD’s program, which will combine her interest in contemporary American studio craft with her background in material culture and theory. “There’s this important platform that needs to be looked at—what the disciplines are and what’s happening in the disciplines. It’s the right foundation to do that work from,” she says.
One of her ambitions is to create cohesion between the museum’s departments and the way the visitor experiences it; the museum’s narrow structure means that each floor is relatively small and stacked tightly on top of each other. “I’m interested in figuring out how we can better tie-in the experiences throughout the museum—from the education department at the top to the lobby and back again.”
Another goal is to expand MAD’s presence beyond its physical space at 2 Columbus Circle with commissions and collaborations with residencies or workshops around the country focused on craft, design or architecture. While hinting there are a few things on the table, we’ll have to wait a bit longer before anything is revealed. “I can’t really specify, but there are some interesting opportunities throughout the country.”