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Westmoreland Museum of American Art expert enjoys hands-on role

Shirley McMarlin
gtrLIVWSevans1061016
Rebecca Emanuele | For the Tribune-Review
Douglas Evans, collections manager at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, stands in front of Mary Cassatt's “Mother and Two Children.”

Doug Evans is collections manager for the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg. He lives nearby in the Academy Hill neighborhood, where he’s often seen walking with his miniature pinscher and Jack Russell terrier mix, Mr. Buddy Walker. During the museum’s recent expansion project, Buddy accompanied Evans to work at the temporary Westmoreland @rt 30 location, where the friendly pooch became something of an unofficial greeter.

Evans has a bachelor’s degree in art history from Wilkes College (now Wilkes University) in Wilkes-Barre, where he first met the Westmoreland’s director and CEO, Judy O’Toole.

Question: How did you and Judy O’Toole meet?

Answer: I had been working for the head of the art department at the time when we got our first full-time director at our small university gallery. He knew I was very much interested in galleries and museums, and he said, “I think you might enjoy meeting her,” and it turned out to be Judy O’Toole. I ended up working for her under a two-year internship.

Q: How long have you beenwith the Westmoreland?

A: I came here in 1994, and in October it will be 22 years.

Q: What does the collections manager do?

A: The collections manager is primarily concerned with the physical condition and preservation of the collection. We don’t have a conservator on staff, so I’m the in-between person to consult with conservators to determine if a piece is stable or if it needs attention. One nice thing with my responsibilities is that I’m hands-on with the objects, so I get to know them well and also get to work with the artists, collectors and vendors.

Q: What would you say is the premier piece in the Westmoreland’s collection?

A: For many reasons, and this is purely personal, I happen to believe that a favorite of our audiences is the Mary Cassatt, “Mother and Two Children.” … That painting could go to any important museum around the world and be a key piece in the collection, and we have it here in Greensburg.

This Cassatt will very shortly be traveling to Japan, to the Yokohama museum in June, and then in September it will move on to Kyoto.

Q: What is your personal favorite piece?

A: It’s not the most important piece, and by far it’s not the most valuable piece in the collection, but it’s one of the most simple and beautiful. The artist is Arthur B. Davies and it’s an etching with aquatint (“Ivory Nude”). If you would see this piece in person, you would see that with a few small lines and a little bit of the aquatint, he’s suggested the whole female form, and it’s just beautiful. It’s not on display now; it’s in storage.

Q: Are you involved in acquisitions?

A: Judy and our curator (Barbara Jones) are responsible for that, but they know that I like to watch auctions, so I often suggest objects to them. We have a wish list, and we have gaps in the collection that we’d like to fill. We have a very small acquisition fund, but, on occasion, we can find something, source it and get lucky at auction.

Q: What are the gaps you referred to?

A: Gaps are pieces that we’d really like to have that would round out the collection. For example, we might say that we are very strong in what’s called The Eight, or the Ashcan School, and Judy’s a noted authority on that. Another school at the same time was the 291, artists who worked through (photographer Alfred) Steiglitz, who was married to Georgia O’Keeffe. We don’t have an O’Keeffe and we don’t have a John Marin oil, though we have a beautiful Marin watercolor.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 or [email protected].

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