Hunter Museum Curator Retiring
Ellen Simak, chief curator for the Hunter Museum of American Art, is retiring after 25 years of service.
Simak joined the Hunter Museum in August of 1988. In her time at the Hunter Museum, she has helped purchase a number of significant works. The first purchase in her tenure was the George Segal sculpture, “Couple on Two Benches,” which was the inaugural acquisition from the Hunter Acquisition Endowment fund set in place by the Benwood Foundation. One of her recent purchases, a fine painting by African American artist Lois Mailou Jones, was acquired from a 2011 traveling show of the artist’s work which will finally return to the Hunter this summer at the end of the exhibit tour just as Simak is leaving.
Among the exhibits she curated, a 2008 exhibition of the work of Charles Burchfield was the culmination of her admiration for this American master’s work. Simak was an active participant in the reinterpretation of the collection in 2004 and designed the reinstallation of all the historic galleries in the museum at that time.
Simak has an M.A. in art history from the University of Delaware. She also has a B.A. in art history, journalism, and English literature from the University of Minnesota. Prior to beginning her museum career, she worked as a copy editor for the Minneapolis Tribune and an editor for Miller Publishing Company. From 1979-1982 she was the program assistant for the National Federation of State Humanities Councils, after which she returned to school to pursue a degree in art history.
Before accepting the position of curator of collections at the Hunter, she was curator of American Art at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, from December 1985 to August 1988.
“It has been my privilege to work at the Hunter Museum for almost 25 years,” Simak said. “Over those years, I have seen many changes, all for the good. But one thing that has remained a constant is the wonderful colleagues – on staff, on the board, amongst our volunteers and in the community – with whom I have shared my working life.”
Highlights of Simak’s impressive career include 33 exhibitions that she has organized since 1988 as well as a significant number of acquisitions. Additionally, Simak has published 12 catalogs and other publications, including Volume 2 of the Hunter’s catalog of the permanent collection.
“Ellen is a talented and dedicated curator and it has been an honor and a privilege to work with her,” said Hunter Museum Executive Director, Daniel Stetson. “Her efforts and achievements have made a lasting mark on the Hunter Museum and on Chattanooga. We will miss her, but wish her well on this new chapter of her life.”
Simak has also had an impact on the arts beyond the walls of the Hunter Museum by serving on a variety of community boards and committees including the Public Art Committee, the Arts and Education Council, Ballet Tennessee and a variety of other panels and commissions. She is a member of the American Association of Museums, the Association of Historians of American Art, the College Art Association, and the Southeastern Museum Conference.
“I hope through my work here that I have contributed to the vibrant Chattanooga arts community; I know I have been enriched by the experience.” Simak said.
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