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Snite Museum hires new art director

| Thursday, January 24, 2019

The new director of the Notre Dame Snite Museum of Art, Joseph Becherer, began work at the University earlier this month and has since spent time becoming familiar with his staff and the museum’s collection of art.

The University’s decision to hire Becherer was announced in the fall, and besides directing and working with exhibits in the Snite, one of his main tasks will be working towards the construction and design of the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, set to open in 2022.

Becherer has previously done work directing and curating pieces for exhibitions and installations including the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. Prior to coming to Notre Dame, he was the Lena Meijer professor in the history of art at Aquinas College, where he taught renaissance, baroque and contemporary art courses.

Becherer said he is excited and honored to join the Snite Museum and the Notre Dame community.

“For me, one of the most important things is that every great university deserves to have a great art museum,” he said. “Notre Dame deserves to have great museum and I am honored to help however I best can to deliver that great museum to this great university.”

During the short two weeks he has been working for the University, Becherer said he has given a lot of thought into the direction he has envisioned for the current and new art museums of Notre Dame.

“The best new museum structures, I believe, are the ones that are built from the inside out,“ he said. “It’s really a very communal experience. It starts out with the 18 people that are here on staff and extends to those faculty and our many wonderful students that engage with us regularly. So, there are a lot of people that will help us decide what that inside is going to be like and how best we can use it not just for this current generation but for future generations. … This is a museum that you want to be relevant and interesting for today but you want to also ensure is vibrant and important for tomorrow.”

Becherer said his career thus far has been interesting, challenging and positive. He said experiences have prepared him for this special task and that he has fresh, exciting points of view to bring to the table and community of Notre Dame.

Gina Costa, marketing and public relations program manager for the Snite Museum, said “[Becherer’s] experience with contemporary sculpture and the remarkable collection he has acquired from international artists at the highest level brings new expertise and a new vision to lead us into the next decade as we look forward to the new Raclin Museum.”

Particularly exciting to Becherer is the prospect of working in a Catholic university, he said, as he was born and raised Catholic and describes a particular passion about religion in the arts.

“I have always been so deeply in awe at how significant the arts have been in the history of the Catholic Church,“ Becherer said. “ … Through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and even today the visual arts have been significant to the Catholic experience. [Being at Notre Dame] adds a dimension to my work in a museum context which I find deeply moving and full of potential. So much of every large museum collection has a connection to history and traditions. For me, it’s an extremely moving and meaningful opportunity.”

Having an art museum on campus is an important resource for all members of the community, Becherer said, and he encourages everyone to come and explore the museum.

“I think that the most important thing is to realize that this museum is open to everybody,” he said. “ … It is a very critical and affirming resource that helps you to really understand how truly beautiful and special it is to have the arts as part of the human experience and I encourage everyone to pop in. You got ten minutes? Great. Got an afternoon? Come on in. It’s free. Just come in and see just one thing and find out what it is … appreciate that moment.“

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