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Get to Know Phoenix Art Museum’s New Director

We chat with the new Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum, Tim R. Rodgers.

By Olivia Munson

Art lovers rejoice. Following an extensive national search, Phoenix Art Museum has appointed its new Sybil Harrington Director and CEO. Tim R. Rodgers, former director of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and vice president of the Scottsdale Cultural Council will be making his way back to the Valley to fill this important role. Rogers, who currently serves as director of The Wolfsonian-Florida International University in Miami, brings nearly 20 years of experience to the position. He will join PAM on a date to be determined after July 1, 2020.

Although regulations on public gatherings were put in place shortly after the announcement of his appointment, Rodgers remains eager to reach out to and educate the community about PAM and its collections. We recently spoke with Rodgers about his new position and how art can help during tough times.

Tim R. Rodgers

Phoenix Home & Garden: Where does your passion for art stem from?
Tim Rodgers: When I was young, I painted. I had the good fortune of going to art camps in the summer, so I was able to pursue this interest. In those days, you had art classes in public schools, and I had a very good art teacher who encouraged me. It was out of that interest in making art that I came into art history.

PHG: How does it feel to be returning to Arizona?

Rodgers: I am very excited. My family has lived in Phoenix for more 40 years now, so for me, it really is like a homecoming. I also have a lot of friends and supporters from when I was at SMoCA who I am looking forward to reconnecting with.

PHG: What do you most looking forward to doing in your new role at PAM?
Rodgers: One of the things I look forward to doing is opening the doors again so that we can all enjoy the museum. It is a very strange time to be starting a new job and thinking about the future because the future seems uncertain. Until we can get a better handle on what is happening with this virus, it is really hard to set goals for engaging with the community. I imagine that we will continue to conduct our online efforts even after we open. I do think it is the future for us in terms of outreach to communities here and outside of Arizona.

PHG: How can art help those in times of crisis and uncertainty?
Rodgers: I recently read a quote that I thought it was very apt. I’m paraphrasing, but it said something along the lines of “art is the ultimate form of hope.” In other words, to create art is to put down your emotions, thoughts and all the things that go into making us human—not only for people today but also for future generations. Art is a letter to the future. In that way, it really is about hope that we will have a future and that there will be generations who will want to appreciate what we have done—just as we look back at paintings from much earlier periods.

PHG: What messages are hoping to cultivate?
Rodgers: Education is really the heart of museums. We will continue to do all of our education efforts with passion and determination to bring art to the larger community. One of the things that PAM has been doing—and former director Amada Cruz really championed this during her time—is opening the doors to the diverse community that exists in Phoenix. One of the things that makes Phoenix such a dynamic city is that its home to people from around the world. I want to make sure that everyone feels welcome at the museum and that they see themselves reflected in various ways in the art.

PHG: Why is art education so important to you?
Rodgers: I have been deeply involved in education throughout my life. I was a professor of art history for many years and, when I went into museum work full-time, I brought that same kind of spirit with me. All exhibitions, programming and entities that are part of PAM focus on the education of the public. Now that education can take many different paths. It can be about issues of sustainability or economic inequality. It can be related to race and diversity. There are so many different ways that art can educate and inform us. It really touches upon all aspects of what it means to be a human.

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