Stillwater News Press

March 9, 2013

Art played pivotal role in new director’s life

By Chase Rheam
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — The opportunity to be part of a growing project for showcasing art and educating students and the public is what brought one woman to her new role with the Oklahoma State University Art Museum.

“That brought me here, that it was just an incredible opportunity to be at the ground stage,” said OSU Museum of Art Director Victoria Rowe Berry.

Berry was hired by the OSU Board of Regents in January. Oklahoma State University was among the choices Berry had before her.

“Frankly, I was fortunate to have a number of interviews and Oklahoma was not really on my radar as strongly because I didn’t know the institution. I had never been to Oklahoma.”

But many factors came into play during her decision, including the hospitality of Oklahomans.

“The people here are incredible,” she said. “The can-do attitude, the positive and the potential.”

She also notes the loyalty to the institution and how individuals on the search committee gave Berry their cell phone numbers, asking her to call if she needed help or had any questions. This wasn’t what she considered a typical university interview, she said.

Berry was born in Washington, D.C. Her father was in the Air Force and served in Vietnam. As a child of the military, Berry said she lived in nine states before she turned 18.

“I kind of cut my teeth on the National Gallery of Art when I was in my early pre-teens and that travel of going to museums, that kind of got integrated in my world very early,” she said.

Even before she was 6, art was a part of her life.

“My grandfather was an artist and a teacher in Las Vegas, Nev.,” Berry said. “Our house was full of his art. We had over 19 oil paintings.”

Berry graduated high school in Omaha, Neb., and attended Utah State University, where she received her undergraduate degree in art education. From there, she traveled to the Seattle area, where she taught in public school before moving back to Utah in 2000 to become the curator of education at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at her alma mater. She was later appointed executive director and chief curator. Berry also received her master’s of fine art and is studio trained. She served on the Utah Arts Council Board of Directors for five years. In her new role, she sees multiple possibilities and directions for OSU to take as it works toward the building of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art.

“The Postal Plaza Gallery on Husband Street is our first phase of this,” she said.

The Postal Plaza Gallery will hold much of the university’s art collection and host programming, exhibitions and school outreach.

Berry said she sees the land-grant university continuing to provide a service to students as well as the community in the region.

The Postal Plaza Gallery will have an impact on the local art community, too, she said.

“Generally, what I’ve experienced is a spinoff,” she said. “Maybe another gallery will open downtown that will help the arts that already exist, the community arts center; there’s the library, there’s the Sheerar Museum. We feel like it’s essentially in that arts district and will serve to raise the profile, be a good neighbor and help everyone else at the same time because there will be more happening in downtown Stillwater.”

A docent program will also be implemented.

“Our K-12 program will be supported,” she said. “And a lot of times I’ve experienced that artists like to come in. Maybe they’re retired teachers and they want to do something. So there’s going to be an outlet for them to come in and talk about art.”

The gallery may also play host to music, poetry readings and theatrical performances, she said.

Berry said art exhibited may be challenging to their audience at times, but they will respect the many kinds of art that different audiences like to see.

“One of the most important aspirations that we have is to create a place where people can go to see art, experience programs and interdisciplinary projects that will happen there,” she said.