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.