Jutta-Annette Page, the senior curator of glass and decorative arts at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio since 2003, will be leaving her position of 13 years for a new job as director of the Barry Art Museum, a brand-new institution to be built at Old Dominion University in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Page will be moving to Virginia in March 2017 to begin the hard work of getting a new art museum off the ground. The building itself is yet-to-be-completed but there is no shortage of tasks, including hiring a full- and part-time staff, developing the museum's systems and protocols, and planning its inaugural exhibition of its namesake's collection. Last summer, Richard and Carolyn Barry announced a $35-million gift to Old Dominion, where they both have professional and personal connections (his father was a professor and he himself served as rector, while she taught there for a time as an adjunct). When it opens in 2018, the Barry Art Museum permanent collection will include more than 200 works of art, with over 100 works from the Studio Glass era. In an extended telephone interview, the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet discussed Page's tenure in Toledo, what interested her about the new opportunity, and some of her early plans.
The GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet: First of all, congratulations on the big news. Can you tell us about some of the high points for you, personally, about your tenure at the Toledo Museum of Art?
Jutta-Annette Page: Well, of course there was the construction and opening of the Glass Pavilion project, which I had the privilege of documenting in the recent book the museum published. Another high point was the hosting the Glass Art Society Conference in 2012, and the "Color Ignited: Glass 1962–2012" exhibition we did in conjunction with that. It was a highlight not just for myself but the glass community at large, and seemed to be an event that wrapped up the past and looked to the future. So many of the old timers came to attend, and it was so poignant because several key members of the community would pass away just a couple years later. The event was really a historic moment in the history of glass. I am so thrilled we were able to make that possible and that the community stepped forward in a big way.
GLASS: Do you see any similarities to your arrival in Toledo in 2003 and your taking on the director position at the Barry Art Museum, or is it a completely different scenario?
Page: In some ways, when I came to the museum in Toledo, I was in a similar position as I am at the Barry. The Toledo museum never had a glass curator since Dominick Labino was named as an honorary glass curator in 1971. My immediate predecessor, curator Davira Taragin, was more focused on exhibitions and post-World War Two craft and design, and never dealt with historic glass collection. So my appointment was the first time somebody looked at the whole glass collection as a whole, and in the context of the museum collection as a whole. I was able to acquire works and fill in gaps. So when I came to Toledo, I took a similar tack as to what I have will do. I am familiar with the Barry's collection, but not all of it, and I am planning to get to know a lot more about the other works in the collection. There are also going to be acquisitions, and I've already received some private inquiries about gifts. It's very exciting for me to think about growing the collection there, as I did at Toledo.
GLASS: And what do you see as the key differences, beyond the obvious that it is a brand-new museum you are going to and Toledo dates back to 1901?
Page: Of course, the new museum will be comparatively smaller, and have a different institutional fabric since it is tied into a university system, which is a very different animal from a city art museum like Toledo. That attracted me because I think a museum tied into an academic community has a lot to offer. It becomes a teaching institution and is first and foremost committed to that community. There is also outreach to the community but that is not the only focus.
GLASS: The Barry Art Museum, when it opens in 2018, will be within a couple of miles of another museum with a focus on glass, the Chrysler Museum of Art. Do you see any potential for competition between the two institutions?
Page: The Chrysler Museum is doing a good job with the here and now, but the Barrys wanted to focus on earlier and larger works, so I think the focus will be a little bit different between the two museums. But of course, whenever you have two cultural institutions, you are vying for similar funds. But on the other hand, the funds are very specific because the major donors are committed to this, as are some of their friends and, of course, the university. I think it's a wonderful thing to have a university system, and, as museum director, I will be stepping into a network that will offer a lot of resources to the museum, such as security and operations, which are already in place but just need to be adjusted to the new addition.
GLASS: Do you have plans for a rotating exhibitions?
Page: Absolutely. From the onset, the Barrys really wanted this glass collection to be a terrific addition but to also show other work in the museum as well. To do programs like that, you have to have staff. I've planned four full-time positions for that museum, as well as part-time staff, which museums are increasingly turning toward. But the Barry will open with five full-time employees. As I did when I came to Toledo, my first show was all about the Toledo collection. At the outset, I think that's the right thing to do rather than bringing in something else if you have a fantastic permanent collection. I'm planning to do the same thing here.
GLASS: Can you talk about any other long-range plans you might have at this point?
Page: I'm interested in Old Dominion University's commitment to online education because I see many possibilities to set up a curriculum on the history of glass art. I think there may be potential to reach out more nationally to make sure that information is more accessible. And as you know, there are no programs in the country that allow you to focus your studies on the history of glass. Perhaps it's something we could offer a degree in someday. But in the short term, I have a lot of things I need to accomplish, such as getting accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums for this young institution, which not an easy task.
GLASS: Will you be starting a housing search as part of your relocation?
Page: My husband and I bought a house in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2015, which we’ve been renovating. His family has been in Virginia since colonial times, so we knew we eventually wanted to move there for personal reasons. Now we are pushing our house to be finished a little bit quicker. We will probably have our primary residence in Charlottesville and keep an apartment or loft in the Norfolk region.