August 14, 2014

Wally Mason selected as new Sheldon Museum of Art director

Wally Mason

Wally Mason, the director and chief curator of the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, will become director of Sheldon Museum of Art on Oct. 15, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman announced Aug. 13.

“Wally Mason brings an energetic, innovative background as a museum director as well as a curator. He has a record of strong support of the importance of visual art at the university level and at the community level,” Perlman said. “His ability to generate excitement for art and engagement among a wide array of audiences will serve him well as the next leader of the Sheldon.”

Mason was selected to lead the Sheldon, which houses one of the country’s premier collections of American art and is a national leader in developing multidisciplinary approaches to the visual arts, following a national search. He replaces Jorge Daniel Veneciano, who resigned in December to become director of El Museo del Barrio in New York.

“Sheldon is an institution that I have admired for a long time and the collection represents such a prescient, unique vision. It is a museum that shows us how to live in the present and how the future can be built on tradition,” Mason said. “It has benefited from outstanding leaders who crafted an extraordinary permanent collection and exhibition history.

“I feel extremely honored and humbled to be entrusted with the opportunity to become the Sheldon’s director.”

Mason comes to Lincoln from a unique academic art museum. Marquette’s Haggerty Museum is the only art museum on a U.S. college campus where art and art history are not part of the curriculum. The Haggerty staff worked successfully to engage faculty and students to include the museum as an extension of their classrooms by creating exhibitions that presented a core multidisciplinary approach to the curriculum.

Annie Crimmins, president of the Sheldon Art Association, said Mason’s passion for the job was an important factor in his selection.

“Wally Mason has a genuine enthusiasm for the Sheldon collection, and this enthusiasm will help foster engagement in the community,” Crimmins said. “When we were getting to know Wally, he shared that he liked to walk through his museum’s exhibitions every day so that he could connect or re-connect with the art, but more importantly, so he could then connect others with art.”

Mason earned a master’s of fine art from Indiana University. Before joining Marquette in 2007, he directed galleries at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla., the University of Idaho and the University of Maine. He has organized more than 60 exhibitions, including “Alfred Leslie: The Killing Cycle,” “Phillip Guston: Inevitable Finality,” “Tina Barney: The Europeans” and “John Marin’s Maine.”

“I look forward to working with Sheldon’s talented and dedicated staff and volunteers, engaging with art and artists, undertaking new initiatives in undergraduate education and expanding the scope of our exhibitions,” he said.

Christin J. Mamiya, associate dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, will remain Sheldon’s interim director until Mason’s arrival.