This post is a part of our “Meet & Greet” Series, periodic posts meant to introduce our online audiences to staff members here at the Colby College Museum of Art! Margaret Aiken, the Linde Family Foundation Coordinator of School and Teacher Programs, is starting her third year of working at the Museum. We sat down and talked with Margaret about her experiences of living in Maine and her work at the Museum.
What were you doing before you came to the Colby Museum?
Before coming to Colby College I was the Director of Visitor Engagement at Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Working in science museums over the past six years has given me the opportunity to make full-sized duct tape parachutes, model Apollo capsules out of Lego, teach Engineering is Elementary, as well as facilitate an online bird drawing class. I look forward to translating my experiences with tinkering, scientific illustration, engineering, manufacturing, and participatory projects into opportunities for arts and science integration in the community and at the college.
What period of art history do you specialize in?
I love prints from American and European artists from the early to mid-20th century. After college I was a curator and gallery manager at a downtown San Francisco gallery specializing in works on paper from the 16th to the 20th century. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on representations of Dionysus in Attic Greek vases. Other interests include Mesoamerican, ancient Greek, West African, and Afro-Caribbean art.
What has surprised you about living in Central Maine?
In my two years living in Maine, I have been surprised by the sheer volume of lobster that is so widely available, and that the smallest blueberries are often the most delicious.
Margaret leading a tour in the Osher Gallery.
What are the main projects that you are working on/responsible for?
My primary responsibility is collaborating with administrators, teachers, students, and families in Central Maine to improve the content and impact of school visits to the Museum. I have been working with colleagues, docents, teaching artists, and student interns to create new programs for preschoolers, seniors, teachers, families, and middle school students.
It is also my privilege to cultivate, train, and schedule the student and volunteer docents at the museum. The volunteer docents at the Colby Museum are wonderful to work with, and make my job something I look forward to everyday.
I am currently directing the Lively Spaces, a free summer art camp at the Museum. For three weeks local students in grades 3-7 make art, dance, read and write poetry inspired by the Museum’s collection.
Tell me about one of your favorite artworks at the Museum?
One of my favorite works of art is a collage by Alex Katz called Wildflowers in Vase, c.1954-55. I like this piece for several reasons. Katz’s collages are small in size but you can see all of the amazing ways that he flattens and expands space in these works, a style that is also evident in his larger paintings. I think of his “collage years,” between 1954 – 1960, both as being a key moment in his process of becoming an artist with a unique style, and in terms of the actual products which are delightful works of art in their own right.
Additionally, it is hard to not see the significance of the fact that 1954 was the year Henri Matisse died. Matisse spent his final years making collages, reducing compositions to lyrical forms of cut colored paper. Although Katz and Matisse’s collages are very different, it pleases me to think of a tradition (collages) being passed on from one great artist to another.
The final reason is very personal; for many years there was an oil painting of wildflowers in a vase hanging in the hallway by the front door of my childhood home. It was painted by my grandmother, my father’s mother, who passed away before I was born. The painting always made me admire her taste and skill, wonder more about who she was, and think about all of the shared interests we would have had.