Museum's Steven Kern gets acquainted with the lay of our land:
The clerk in the post office at Carousel Mall held up the sheet of stamps - Albert Bierstadt's 19th century painting, "Valley of the Yosemite," newly issued -- and squinted at them.
"Aren't they lovely?" he said. "I just love these expansive landscapes. You know, I think the Everson Museum owns one of his paintings. I haven't been there in a while, though."
"Well, you should stop in," I said. "I was there yesterday and they're changing things around. They're moving the paintings that have been in the main atrium for years into the upstairs galleries, and rotating the permanent collection so people can see what's there. It's pretty exciting."
"Well, maybe I will then," he said.
The Everson does own an Albert Bierstadt -- "Nevada Falls, 1863" -- and the Friday morning before Labor Day the main atrium was abustle with ladders and activity. Steven Kern, who moved to Syracuse this summer to start as the museum's new director and has already been at the center of a whirlwind of receptions and gatherings, was in the thick of it.
Kern is a New England native who worked his way west, only to return east. He was curator of painting at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts before nine years at San Diego's Museum of Art as European curator. Then two years ago, he became director of the William Benton Museum at the University of Connecticut. On the way downstairs to his office, Kern explained part of what brought him to Syracuse by way of explaining the atrium's unveiling.
Eagle: Can you talk about the atrium and what's happening there?
One of the things that was most exciting to me, coming to Syracuse, is just being in this building by I.M Pei, which I discovered many years ago on a visit to Syracuse in 1983. We've seen architecture come a very long way since then, and we have to remind ourselves that we have one of those monuments here in our midst. This is the opportunity to celebrate the architecture that we have here. And to approach the space people walk into as a work of art itself is part of this new approach to enjoying this museum. And I think to reintroduce this notion that this building is an adventure. that starts the moment you walk up toward the building.