Staff Profile

Meet Theresa Bembnister, New Associate Curator at the Akron Art Museum

by Theresa Bembnister, Associate Curator

When I think back on my first month in Akron, one word comes to mind: snow.

André Kertész, February 6, 1977

André Kertész, February 6, 1977, 1977; gelatin silver print; 10 in. x 8 in.; Purchased with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and Mr. and Mrs. C. Blake McDowell, Jr.

OK, I’m kidding. Sort of.

It’s been six years since I last lived in Northeast Ohio. In 2009 I left for an internship in New York after graduating with an MA in art history and museum studies from Case Western Reserve University. Last month I left Manhattan, Kansas, where I worked as associate curator at Kansas State University’s Beach Museum of Art, to fill the position of associate curator at the Akron Art Museum. In those six years I’d forgotten how harsh the weather here can be.

But winter in Northeast Ohio is filled with anticipation. As I walk and drive around Akron, with the sidewalks, roads, tree branches and buildings covered with snow, slush and ice, I can’t help but look forward to spring and the changes that come with it. What will the melting snow reveal? How will the city look and feel when the grass is green, the trees have leaves, and more and more residents venture outside?

Jeannetter Klute, Apple Blossom, c.1950

Jeannette Klute, Apple Blossom, c.1950; dye transfer print; 19 3/16 in. x 14 15/16 in.; Gift of George Stephanopoulos

Just as I eagerly await experiencing Akron after the temperatures rise and the snow subsides, I’m excited to get to know the museum’s collection and its audiences. Delving into the library’s artist files and catalogs to conduct research for the museum’s recent acquisitions meeting has given me the opportunity to gain knowledge of the collection. I’m eager to see upcoming exhibitions like Staged and Proof which will highlight some of the excellent photographs in the collection that have not been on view recently, as well as introduce audiences to exciting new acquisitions. I’ve also begun to familiarize myself with artists and cultural institutions in Akron and the region by attending gallery openings, viewing exhibitions and conducting studio visits. I’m impressed by what I’ve seen so far.

I’m also impressed by Akronites’ sense of ownership in their museum. I’ve been blown away by the positive responses I’ve received from people when I’ve told them I work at the Akron Art Museum—from the cable guy installing my internet service to the clerk setting up my bank account. They shared memories of past exhibitions and the summertime concert series Downtown at Dusk. The turnout for the Inside|Out kick-off meeting demonstrates that community members are invested in partnering with the museum to improve the quality of life in their city. I can’t wait to see reproductions of work in the museum’s collection while walking in my neighborhood this fall.

Dwight Tryon, The New Moon, 1921

Dwight Tryon, The New Moon, 1921; oil on panel; 20 in. x 30 in.; Bequest of Edwin C. Shaw

I’m filled with anticipation for all that the museum, the city and the region have to offer as the weeks go by. I look forward to developing a deeper understanding of how I can serve the collection, museum audiences and the surrounding community through my curatorial practice. I’m glad to be here in Akron.

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Staff Interview: Special Events Manager Sheri Stallsmith

Sheri Stallsmith joined the Akron Art Museum family this past August as the new special events manager. Recently she sat down to answer a few questions with Communications Intern Corey Jenkins.

 What is your background?

 I have been involved in event planning my entire life.  I was always a kid who was putting together parties for my friends. As an adult, I officially got involved in event planning in my hometown of Orrville, Ohio, when my mother volunteered me to plan an event. Professionally, I held a similar position at Hale Farm and Village before coming here.

What appealed to you about the position at the Akron Art Museum?

 I enjoy working in museums and I enjoy planning events, so this was a good fit for me. Akron is my home now; my kids go to school here and I wanted a job in this area. I also wanted to develop a career that would allow me to meet members of the community and to be involved in the community on a professional level.

What is your favorite piece in the collection?

Bordner Mural by William Sommer. I like the vibrant, happy colors and the shapes.  I like that it is an unusual interpretation of a farm.  It is a happy painting and part of me wants to be the kid in the painting because it looks like a pleasant, carefree place to be.

 What type of events are you currently developing?

 Right now I’m focusing on weddings.  I’ll be at the Today’s Bride Bridal Show on January 6 at the John S. Knight Center.  I’m also making connections within the community to expand the number of corporate events held at the museum.

What do you enjoy most about working at the Akron Art Museum?

 People. I like to be around people and I enjoy working with the staff and getting to know the clients. I enjoy getting to know people and it is a wonderful experience to be involved in someone’s special day or big event.

What type of events would you like to see developed in the future?

 In the short time that I have been here we have received a number of inquires from people who are interested in filming at the museum. We are housed in an amazing structure with fabulous architecture, so there is a lot of potential for utilizing the space for all kinds of film, print and virtual media. The museum’s rental business is only five years old, so there is a lot of room to develop and grow.  Many people still don’t even know that they can have an event here.  I’m working on changing that…

 Is there any information you would like to share with the public about the Akron Art Museum’s special events department?

 The space is very flexible and works very well for small and large groups alike. Since the architecture is so distinctive and visually interesting you are able to have an event here without splurging on decorations. Just don’t put a wedding cake in the front window on a sunny day or it will melt!

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