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Vicki Wright Leaving Director Position For Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
September 3, 2008

Vicki Wright

When Vicki Wright came to UNH in 1986 to take over as director of the art museum, two of the three staff members had departed four months earlier, leaving one employee and a work-study student. Wright had to figure things out for herself.

She hired the student as the assistant director and took on two fellowship students. The four of them shared one office--and one telephone. The assistant director’s desk was a door set on two file cabinets.

“We had to pass the phone back and forth,” Wright says. “It was frustrating; you’d leave a message for someone to call you back and then a coworker would take the phone away from you.”

“I had to pedal very quickly to get up to speed on how to get things done,” Wright adds.

And now, she’s done pedaling. On Oct. 6, Wright will begin her new job as director of collections and exhibitions at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Kalamazoo, Mich. Her last day at UNH is Sept. 26.

“This was a tough decision for me. I’ve truly enjoyed working at UNH for the last 22 years. I love being in academia; I love the teaching aspect of our mission,” Wright says.

Her initial response to the offer from Kalamazoo was that she couldn’t go because she has so many “irons in the fire” here. In particular, she has been working hard to increase the visibility of the Museum of Art.

Then, all of the good things about the move came into her mind. For starters, she is a Midwesterner—she’s from Ohio—whose siblings are still out there; the move takes her back to her roots.

Being director of collections and exhibitions will allow Wright to focus on the two areas of her job that she likes most.

“This will allow me to do things on an entirely different scale. It’s a place for me to grow,” Wright says.

One of the first exhibits under her charge will be of paintings belonging to the New Orleans Museum of Art. After Katrina, a traveling exhibit of many of the museum's most important works was put together in part as a way to keep the paintings safe while the city rebuilt.

Wright’s contributions at UNH are many. She has seen two 10-month staff positions convert to year-round. There is now a full-time administrative assistant; when she started, there wasn’t one. Instead of one-and-a-half offices there are now four. And the exhibitions, booked as far as 18 months ahead of time, continue to be of high quality.

“I feel very good about the 22 years I’ve spent here,” Wright says. “I’m leaving the museum on solid ground. Our staff is extremely competent and we do things in a highly professional manner, so the next director won’t have to reinvent the wheel. I haven't done it alone—it’s been a joint effort.”

“Everybody is replaceable. Change is difficult but it’s often beneficial,” Wright continues. “Having a new director with different skills and interests will be a very good thing for the Museum of Art.”

In lieu of a formal "celebration" of her departure, Wright is inviting people to the opening reception for the exhibitions “Art Faculty Review”and“Conley Harris: Lyrical Tableaux” on Friday, Sept. 5, from 5 to 7 p.m., in the Museum of Art.

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