Southwest School of Art director of exhibitions says goodbye
Mary Mikel Stump, director of exhibitions at the Southwest School of Art, is leaving that position to follow her husband to Tacoma, Washington. Her last day is April 7.
Stump was hired in July 2015 to replace Kathy Armstrong, who left to become executive director of Luminaria. Before coming to the Southwest School of Art, Stump was director of the Texas State University galleries for almost 20 years.
Stump said she applied for the job after receiving an email from Paula Owen, president of the institution.
“I forward it to a few people and then all of a sudden I thought, ‘Wait a minute!’” she said. “The program is very similar to what I did at Texas State, so I thought it would be an easy and natural transition from one thing to another, but the opportunity to really connect to a large art community where there were other performing and visual art institutions really excited me.”
When Stump took the job, she inherited a slate of exhibitions. The first show she programmed entirely for the Southwest School of Art, was Austin-based artist Seth Orion Schwaiger’s “Complex 2.” For the exhibit, which was on view Sept. 1 through Oct. 30, 2016, the artist divided the Russell Hill Rogers Gallery I into a series of smaller galleries, each containing separate but related visual experiences.
“I think (it was) probably the most ambitious curatorial project that I’ve done in my career,” Stump said. “It was really important for me to altar the space in a way that would get the attention of people who had been coming to the gallery for years and years and years, so it would kind of throw them off and disorient them a little bit. When I saw the first iteration of that project in Austin, I knew it was perfect because he would have to physically intervene and architecturally alter the space in order to do what he wanted to do.”
A search for a new director of exhibitions is currently under way. Owen expects to fill the position sometime in the summer.
During Stump’s tenure, she has “been very instrumental in what I call the expanded perception of the Southwest School of Art into the state,” Owen said. “She’s made connections with artists and galleries and collectors in Houston and Dallas and Austin, and that’s so important for us now as we start to expand our boundaries in terms of students and our college program.”
Stump will leave programming in place through the end of August 2018, including shows by Mexico City-based artist Victor Pérez-Rul; San Antonio-based artists Esteban Delgado, Jack McGilvray, Kristy Perez and Buster Graybill; and Los Angeles-based artist Chris Engman.
Stump also coordinated an exhibition for the city’s Tricentennial. Scheduled to open in February, it is described as “an encyclopedic showcase of the city’s history as told and re-written by more than 300 artists.” The six-part show will be hosted by six venues — the Southwest School of Art, Artpace, Blue Star Contemporary, the Carver Community Cultural Center, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and the Instituto Cultural de México.
“That’s a major feat to work in partnership with that many organizations,” Owen said. “It’s such a wonderful concept to orchestrate this kind of celebratory exhibition that involves so many different artists.”
In Tacoma, Stump will be director of audience engagement at the Washington State Historical Society, which owns and operates the Washington State History Museum. Her husband, Marty Stump, a landscape architect, moved there in October after landing a “dream job” working for the city in his hometown.
Though Stump is sad to be leaving San Antonio, the sixth generation Texan expects to be back often.
“I have lots of family and friends (here),” she said. “So people will probably see me and say, ‘I thought you left.’”