EMILY BOWLES is the Ackland Art Museum’s Director of Communications.
My first day working at the Ackland was August 30, 2010, so as of this writing I’ve been here over six years.
What brought you to the Ackland?
A job that was the perfect mix of my backgrounds in the arts and in communications. And a freelancing gig that was about to dry up after eight solid years.
What do you do at the Ackland?
I make sure that the word gets out about all the amazing exhibitions and programs that we have going on. That means I’m responsible for the website content (text and images), our bi-weekly eNews, media relations, press releases, advertising, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), printed invitations and posters, e-fliers and printed takeaways, flat screen TV slides, etc. It’s a big job because we are a very active museum.
What is a memorable Ackland experience of yours?
I have several, and most of them fall under the category of highly anticipated works of art arriving in the building; I call them “Big Truck Days” or “Big Crate Days.” There’s a wonderful, heart-stopping moment when you get to see in person the work of art that you’ve been “seeing” reproduced in small jpgs during months and months of exhibition planning. The hush when the loaned Francis Bacon is finally on the wall. The “oooohs” when a Roy Lichtenstein painting is uncrated. There’s also the thrill of unusual pieces being installed after months of anticipation, like the time an Indian rickshaw was steered into our lobby. During the Ackland’s 2013 exhibition More Love, it was Jim Hodges’ “spider web” piece Hello, Again (1994-2003) being deftly installed in a corner of the ceiling and his huge curtain of flowers, You (1997), being hung.
What is your favorite thing about working at the Ackland?
As you can guess from my previous answer, for me it’s the chance to see great works of art up close, in person, and this is always possible working at the Ackland because I can walk downstairs to the galleries at any time. I studied art history both as an undergrad and as a graduate student. I never take for granted the opportunity to look closely at a work of art when it’s right in front of me. It’s the reason why I am devoted to getting the Ackland the attention it deserves: everyone should know about and visit a world-class art museum and see art from all over the world, up close and in person.
SEE. MORE. ART.: What is your favorite arts experience in the Triangle?
There are so many! I feel very fortunate to live in an area that has such a high concentration of performing and visual arts offerings.
I live in Carrboro and thanks to exhibitions at The ArtsCenter and Chapel Hill’s FRANK Gallery, as well as the Orange County Artists’ Guild open studio weekends every fall, I am always discovering artists who live right near me. I’m an especially big fan of the encaustic paintings of Peg Bachenheimer and Shelly Hehenberger.
I’m also grateful to Carrboro’s ArtsCenter for the photography and InDesign classes I have taken there — they definitely sharpened some of my dormant skills. And my son has done great pottery, cartooning, and theater camps there since he was five.
If work at the Ackland did not keep me so busy, I’d spend more time at The Scrap Exchange, as I love sculpting, sewing, and generally assembling things. I also take photos and wish I had more time to devote to that. (Getting to see Sally Mann at Flyleaf Books recently was amazing – my closet-photographer-self really geeked out!)
Bonus question: What is your favorite work at the Ackland?
Peter Nisbet thinks I’m going to say our Chuck Close print Lyle, which I do really love, but I think my favorite would actually be Neil Welliver’s Stump (2000). It reminds me of walks in the woods in Maine, where I’m from. I’m also a fan of The World According to Zell (1997-2001) by Aldwyth and Looking Back Buck by Marc Swanson. All these works give me joy every single time that I look at them.
Bonus question: If you could purchase any work of art and put it on view at the Ackland, what would you choose?
Well, assuming that the Whitney Museum won’t part with Jay DeFeo’s The Rose anytime soon, I’d selfishly pick one of Joseph Cornell’s boxes, just so I could gaze upon it every day. Plan B would be a Richard Diebenkorn painting from his “Berkeley” series or a large-scale collage by Jess. Or a Bruce Conner assemblage. Yeah, I’d be happy with any of the above.