New manager puts her stamp on shop at Westmoreland Museum of American Art
Carol Sullivan had a varied resume before she took over in August as manager of the museum shop at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg. With a degree in business administration from Albright College in her native Reading, she’s worked in the steel industry, for a French antique interior design business and, most recently, as a brand coordinator for Neiman Marcus in King of Prussia. She lives in Murrysville with her husband, Michael Sullivan.
Question: How did you go from fashion to fine art?
Answer: A friend of mine who volunteers with the museum heard that there was going to be an opening in the shop, and she thought I would be perfect for it.
Q: How is it going?
A: I say I get paid to play in a beautiful place. I have never had such a job, where I get up in the morning and love to come to work. There have been jobs I’ve enjoyed parts of, but this one is the whole package.
Q: What have you done to put your own stamp on the shop?
A: I’ve expanded the number of books we bring in to the museum. I’ve tried to add more educational pieces for children and books on American artists.
We’ve also become a place for purchasing gifts, and we’ve recently started a gift registry. We’re hoping brides, engaged couples, people with birthdays and anniversaries, will take that into consideration. We’re carrying picture frames, coasters, dinnerware, glassware.
I found a source through Art for Home that has some great potters that I’ve been able to connect with. We’ve got some great contemporary pottery in the shop that’s been received quite well by the administration here, as well as by the customer base. I’ve been able to put my mark on the shop that way.
Q: How do you decide what to buy?
A: You look at trends in the market You have to look at not necessarily what you like, but what you feel your visitor will buy, as well as the art that’s in the museum — the shows that are coming in and what pertains to the shows. You bring things into the shop that are pertinent to what’s going on in the museum.
Q: Speaking of trends, what is popular right now?
A: Postcards still seem to be the biggest seller, I think as a souvenir. We get a number of people from outside the area and they pick them up to keep them, as opposed to mailing them. Then it’s various. Pottery seems to be popular, as well as jewelry, and then books.
Q: Do you have favorite pieces in the museum itself?
A: We have some very old pieces of furniture — a chest over drawers that we feel is from Berks County, which is where I’m from, and my father is a woodworker. So for me, I have an appreciation and affection and admiration for the piece, knowing what goes into making it. There’s a personal connection with that.
The “Born of Fire” collection also is meaningful to me. My husband and I met in a steel mill. In Reading, there’s a steel mill where we both worked in the melt shop. I was the assistant to the melt shop superintendent and he was the metallurgist. So our start was in steel as well.
There are two prints I like: “Organic Forms” by Balcomb Greene and “Two Sisters” by Alfred Henry Murray. They’re both abstract, or modernistic, and I lean more toward the contemporaries. Both of those prints, ironically, are in the shop right now and available for sale.
Q: Have you bought them for your own home?
A: No. Over the years, we’ve collected so much artwork that our walls are full. We’d have to get rid of some to add some.
Q: What would you buy if you had room?
A: When (Pittsburgh artist) Syl Damianos took down the exhibit “Opposites Attract,” he left a wooden sculpture in the shop for us to consider selling. If I had table space in my house, it would be there. Again, because my father’s a woodworker, I appreciate it. It’s also very abstract, very contemporary, and I absolutely love it.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 or [email protected].