Brown brings experience, creativity to Fine Arts Museum

David J. Brown, an experienced arts professional that has worked in the field of art and visual culture for more than 25 years, will take over as director of the Fine Arts Museum at Western Carolina University effective July 1, following the retirement of founding director and curator Martin DeWitt in December 2010.

Brown has worked as an arts management consultant since 2010. From 2007 to 2010, he was deputy director of the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Va.

Brown has also served in administrative roles with the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

He has worked with artists including Pae White, Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono, Willie Doherty, Lesley Dill, David Byrne, John Waters and Dan Perjovschi, according to WCU News Services.

Brown earned his master’s of fine arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, a bachelor’s of fine arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, a bachelor’s of fine arts degree from Old Dominion University, and a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University.

When asked about his plans for the Fine Arts Museum, Brown said, “Its not my intention to come in with a set program in mind without getting to know the organization, the school and the community-finding out the resources and talent that defines the area and working with that wealth of knowledge and history to begin to realize what is possible.

“All of that combines with all of the programs that I’ve been involved with over the years. I’ve always maintained that there is no shortage of good ideas, just ways to fund them so fundraising will certainly be crucial in helping to raise the profile of the museum locally, regionally, nationally,” said Brown.

As WCU resides in the rural mountains, fine arts are often lost to more outdoors activities. Brown said that getting students in a rural setting to come visit a Fine Arts Museum “is [a question] pertinent to most areas outside of major cities that are rich with cultural offerings.

“One of my goals will be to make the museum more of a social space with active participants rather than passive viewers,” continued Brown. “Another idea is to bring the museum activities out into campus and the community so that our students and the community don’t always have to come into the museum to experience that which we call art these days.”

Brown said it is too early to tell what changes need to be made at the Fine Arts Museum.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to meet all the staff and really assess the program but that will happen fairly soon. I tend to practice a servant management style which is based on listening to others, respecting what they have to offer and encouraging them to seek greatness,” said Brown.

Brown does know that he wants to increase the museum’s budget and visibility, making it a major player in the state and region.

For Brown, art has always been a part of his life.

“I think I started drawing in the 2nd grade and continued to do so on and off over the years. I played drums in a few bands in my teens, and there was this zone that one would enter playing music whereby you were so completely immersed in the activity that everything outside of the playing disappeared. I found that same zen-like zone when I started painting in college,” said Brown.

After graduate school, Brown would volunteer any time that he had working with other artists on their projects and, over time, built up quite a bit of experience in doing all kinds of artistic based projects.

“In my case, my mind worked much faster than my hands and that eventually became a driving force or direction for me. It became evident at one point that I needed to close the doors to my studio and do all my creative work within the institutional framework,” said Brown.

For Brown, moving to the WNC area will be a treat. Brown spent time driving across country many years ago and remembers quite vividly that the Southwest North Carolina/Eastern Tennessee region was by far his favorite.

“Its not new news to tell you how gorgeous the area is. In my role as a director, it’s important for me to have a presence in Cullowhee and also in the greater region,” said Brown.
He has lived in North Carolina since 1999 and knows many of the people in the art and culture sectors, including many of the funders.

Brown said, “I’m personally looking forward to learning more about Cullowhee and in searching for possible partners to collaborate with. The arts don’t exist in a vacuum, and creative people in all sorts of disciplines live everywhere these days.”