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New Director Named for Plattsburgh State Art Museum

tonya cribbThe Plattsburgh State Art Museum has a new director.

Tonya Cribb will take over the reins from Dr. Karen Blough, professor of art, who has been serving as interim director since February 2017.

“Karen has been wonderful,” said Dr. Andrew Buckser, dean of arts and sciences. “She did a terrific job and was a big part of this search. She was very excited about Tonya Cribb coming in as we all were.”

Cribb comes to SUNY Plattsburgh from the Stetson University Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center in Deland, Fla., where she was responsible for oversight and management of the university’s permanent collection, organizing and executing the yearly exhibit schedule and associated educational programming, managing and mentoring the staff, which included eight to 10 students each semester, and collaborating with university departments and faculty members to develop resources for use in Stetson courses, among others.

More than 20 Years' Experience

Cribb earned her BFA in ceramics from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. and her Master of Arts in museum science from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. With more than 20 years' experience planning exhibits for museums and galleries, Cribb has experience in collections management, educational outreach, programming, event promotion and supervision of staff, interns and volunteers. She has taught art history, arts management, gallery practices, docent and studio courses on the college level.

She said she is looking forward to moving to the North Country. Having lived and worked in Ithaca, N.Y., the Adirondacks became a vacation destination.

Impressed with Collections

“SUNY Plattsburgh is in a beautiful part of the country; I’ve always loved the Adirondacks,” she said. “And the college is a nice size.”

She said she was impressed upon her visit of the museum’s collections and the art across campus.

“I’m at a campus with about 3,000 students, and I was looking for another opportunity to work with a great staff and a fantastic collection,” she said. “The collection is vast at SUNY Plattsburgh, a really interesting collection, and I felt I could make a difference with it.

“I was very impressed with the art across campus, especially the sculpture on the grounds,” she said.

One of Cribb’s first big projects will be rotating artworks around campus, moving some that may be being harmed by light or temperatures, some that hang near doorways. She explained that you have to be very careful how long something is exposed to light and temperature changes.

Develop Relationships

Another priority is reaching out to departments across campus to develop relationships that will help interdisciplinary collaboration.

“I really like to have exhibits that are cross-disciplinary in nature, something that would have broad appeal for our academic community as well as for the community at large,” she said. “In Florida, there’s an incredible painter whose work is all about Florida springs. There’s a real problem with the water supply and pollution in Florida. Her subject matter connects with environmental science, biology, public policy, which would work well with political science and sociology — there’s a lot of academic programming that can occur around exhibits. The idea is to bring in exhibits that can build relationships with faculty.”

To do this, Cribb will need to find out what the faculty is teaching so she can match exhibits with curricula.

“There is a lot of programming that can occur and discussions that can result from exhibits on these sorts of topics,” she said. “Sometimes they can be controversial, but this is an academic community, and we ought to be able to have those kinds of discussions.”

Interim Director

Blough took over as interim director of the museum when its former director, Ceil Esposito took a medical leave in February 2017, retired in September of that year and passed away a month later. Blough said she’s pleased with the selection for new director.

“Tonya Cribb brings with her several years of directorial experience at a similar, if smaller, college museum,” Blough said. “She also has a good deal of museum studies teaching experience and a real enthusiasm for students. Her energy and enthusiasm seem quite boundless. I know she wants to reach out across campus and forge relationships. Her philosophy opposes silos. I am absolutely sure that the Plattsburgh State Art Museum will benefit enormously from Tonya’s expertise, outgoing nature and creative thinking.”

Buckser agreed.

“One of her tasks will be charting a path — what we want the museum and role of the museum to be on campus and in the community. We’re gratified to have Tonya come in to do this,” Buckser said.

Cribb, who will officially be on campus June 17, said she was excited to begin this new chapter of her life, which she’ll share with her 8-year-old daughter and is looking forward to being a conduit for both campus and community.

“What I can bring is a way of connecting everyone and letting them know there are things on campus that can connect them to art. Art is about everything; there are no limits with art. We want to make people aware that there is always a place for them at the museum.”

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