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Portland Museum of Art Announces New Director - Mark Bessire
Mark Bessire.


PORTLAND, ME.- The Portland Museum of Art announced today that Mark Bessire has been hired as the new Director of the Museum. Since 2003, Bessire has been Director of the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Maine, best known for its Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection. Bessire will begin his new position at the Portland Museum of Art on March 2, 2009.

Among his many accomplishments at the Bates College Museum of Art, Bessire initiated a Collections Project Series, worked with departments to create cross-disciplinary exhibitions through a Synergy Fund, exhibited Chinese art to support Bates’s strong Asian Studies Program, and strengthened the Friends of the Museum program. Bessire was also a lecturer in the Humanities and Chair of the Committee on Public Art.

Previously, Bessire was Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine, from 1998 to 2003. He organized many exhibitions there including The Photography of Ike Ude and Eracism: William Pope.L, which traveled nationally and was accompanied by an MIT Press Publication.

Bessire holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University, a M.A. in art history from Hunter College, and a B.A. from New York University. He was a Helena Rubinstein Fellow at the Whitney Museum of Art and a Fulbright Fellow in Tanzania. He has published widely including three books with MIT Press, has organized numerous traveling exhibitions, is active in local, community, and national public art programs, lectures on museum studies, and has participated on national art juries. His upcoming publication Stairway to Heaven: From Chinese Streets to Monuments and Skyscrapers will be published this year by University Press of New England. Bessire is a founding board member of the non-profit Africa Schoolhouse, which is dedicated to building schools in rural Africa.

In naming Bessire as the new Director, Hans Underdahl, President of the Board of the Portland Museum of Art, said, “I am delighted that the Search Committee chose and the full Board endorsed the decision to invite Mark H. C. Bessire to be the new Director of the Portland Museum of Art. The success and stature of the Museum, combined with the attractiveness of Portland as a place to live, resulted in a very capable pool of candidates from all across the country. After extensive study of the challenges and opportunities that the Museum will have in the years ahead, it was decided that Mark had the best combination of leadership and practical skills to achieve them.”

In accepting the position, Bessire stated, “I am honored to be selected as Director of the Portland Museum of Art. I look forward to the opportunity to lead the Museum at this critical point in its history. The acquisitions of the Winslow Homer Studio, the Charles Q. Clapp House, and the property at 87 Spring Street all demand a clear articulation of the Museum’s mission and aspirations in order to determine the next exciting stage of its growth. Developing these priorities will enable us to expand audiences, attract donors, and build the collection to make the Portland Museum of Art one of the most vibrant museums in America.”

“Our Director Search Committee was comprised of a broad spectrum of Museum trustees,” said Search Committee Chair and Trustee James L. Moody. “We interviewed several executive search consulting firms and chose Russell Reynolds Associates. The Portland area and the quality of our Museum attracted a large pool of candidates. Our committee is confident that Mark Bessire will do an outstanding job as our new Director, and we look forward to working with him to make our Museum and its programs even better.”

Mark Bessire is married to Aimée Bessire, Associate Professor at Maine College of Art. They reside with their two children in Portland.







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