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Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg appoints its first curator of contemporary art
Katherine Pill, the MFA’s first Assistant Curator of Art after 1950, stands next to Enrico Donati’s Angkor Wat (1963), a mixed-media work in the collection she admires. Photo: Thomas U. Gessler.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL.- Katherine Pill has joined the Museum as its first Assistant Curator of Art after 1950. This historic step has been made possible by The Hazel and William Hough Curatorial Endowment Fund, established in 2012. The Houghs are longtime MFA supporters and collectors of contemporary art. The Hazel Hough Wing is named in honor of Mrs. Hough, a Museum trustee.

Ms. Pill brings ideal experience and education to this new position and arrives at an optimum moment in the life of the Museum. The MFA has increasingly received donations of and acquired works created after 1950 and up to the present day. Ms. Pill has not only curated numerous exhibitions of modern and contemporary art in a variety of media, but has also taken a very active role as an educator and writer. She has designed and conducted many programs to enhance audience understanding and enjoyment of contemporary work.

Her first exhibition at the MFA will be Color Acting: Abstraction Since 1950, primarily drawn from the collection (July 6-September 22). Also intent on adding new media to the Museum’s holdings, she proposed Michael Bell-Smith’s Waves Clock (2012) for the Collectors Choice event on April 19. Generated by a unique software program, the projected work depicts bright blue waves crashing towards shore, with a generic white analog clock, keeping real time, meandering slowly across the scene.

These images each address the cycle of time, both natural and mechanical, but are visually disjointed to an almost comical degree. It is difficult to focus on either one without being distracted by the other—a fitting reflection on our media-saturated times. Once again, the Houghs have stepped forward with funds to acquire Waves Clock, with the aim of installing it in the glass Conservatory.

Ms. Pill’s academic credentials are stellar. She holds her BA with a double-major in art history (with honors) and English literature from McGill University in Montreal. She then completed a three-year dual MA in art history, theory, and criticism and arts administration and policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“We now have a curator who will focus on contemporary art,” said MFA Director Kent Lydecker. “Katherine will collaborate closely with Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin, organize exhibitions, strengthen our collection, and build relationships with artists locally, nationally, and, in our global age, internationally. We could not have taken this historic step without the generous donation, friendship, and leadership of Hazel and William Hough.”

While in graduate school, Ms. Pill held a number of impressive positions. She served as Communications Director and then Administrative Director of the two Student Union Galleries, which presented six exhibitions each semester. In addition to those responsibilities, she enhanced a lively schedule of workshops, panel discussions, and artist talks and helped curate booths at Art Chicago and NEXT: The Invitational Exhibition of Emerging Art. She also organized and participated in a panel discussion on student-run art spaces at NEXT’s “Talk Shop” in 2010.

In addition, she was the Co-Director of the Concertina Gallery for nearly a year in Chicago, co-curating and installing monthly exhibitions of work by artists from across North America. The first exhibition was selected for TimeOut Chicago’s top 10 gallery exhibitions of 2009. She also wrote and edited pieces about new work as the Art Criticism Editor for Fnewsmagazine, the monthly student journal of art, culture, and politics at the School of the Art Institute.

After completing her MA, she served as Assistant Curator and Curatorial Fellow at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City. She was heavily involved in the installation of the permanent collection and curated the exhibitions Make It Strange: Developing a Medium, (Un)Natural Histories, and Companion Pieces. For the Collectors Forum, she organized trips to New York, Boston, and Denver, with tours of private collections, artist studios, museums, and galleries. At the MFA, she plans to develop a similar support group for contemporary art.

“I am thrilled to step into this newly created position devoted to growing the MFA’s modern and contemporary art programming,” said Ms. Pill. “It is a passion of mine to support the work of contemporary artists and to communicate their work to a larger public. Contemporary art can be intimidating, and I feel it is the responsibility of a curator to provide context and multiple points of entry to challenging concepts and artworks.”

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