Spotlight on Staff: Jim Whiteaker

Every month throughout the academic year the Staff Council randomly selects a staff member to celebrate in our Spotlight on Staff.  Our recipient for January 2013 is Jim Whiteaker, exhibition manager at the Saint Mary's College Museum of Art

Jim WhiteakerI went to visit Jim at the Museum where he was in the midst of mounting upcoming exhibits: Carnaval! a traveling exhibit including works of Carnaval celebrations from around the world; In Search of the Source of the Nile and Beyond with paintings by Lockwood deForest painted during his travels on the Nile river in 1875-76; Ryan Reynalds: Landscape Assembled featuring contemporary landscape paintings by the California Artist; and a new exhibit of William Keith paintings entitled The California Alps: Paintings from the 1870's, 80's, and 90's.

We don't often get to see what a Museum looks like when it's in the process of mounting exhibits and it was great to see Jim in his element as he went about his interesting, creative and important work.

Here's what Jim had to say about his work and himself.

How long have you been here at Saint Mary's?

I guess I have been here "officially" for about 17 years...though before that I was working part-time to help install the exhibits. I was also called in to do matting and framing and various other gallery jobs.

Tell us a little about you job here.

As Exhibition Manager I work very closely with Carrie Brewster, the Museum director, to layout, hang and light the exhibits in the Museum's four galleries. I work with Julie Armistead to pack/unpack, pick-up and return exhibition artwork as well as help maintain the Museum's permanent collection. I also mat and frame work for exhibitions and photograph the installations and artwork as needed. Plus many Museum details too numerous to list.

I occasionally curate exhibitions. Past shows were Ralph Borge: A Symbolic Realist and His Circle, Richard McLean: Master Artist Tribute IX and currently working on an exhibition of Mel Ramos art.

What do you enjoy the most/find most rewarding about your job.

I am a firm believer that viewing fine art helps raise the consciousness of the viewers...sometimes in a very small way and other times almost life changing. The arts we produce as humans are what differentiates us from other species. Watching people study or talk about the art we exhibit fills me with both joy and pride that I am a part of the process of cultural growth.

What do you enjoy most about the SMC Community/Campus?

Most of my life, until working here at SMC, I was self-employed. But I have found such a great, interesting and warm group of people working here on campus that I actually look forward to coming to work. Being a country boy I find the Campus a visual treat. I love the changing of the seasons and watching the trees turn colors in the Fall and bloom in the Spring. The squirrels are fun to watch, except when they party in the Museum office attic (I think they actually enjoy the strobe lights put up there to chase them away). They are truly party animals. Gosh...and the turkeys...our Campus is a paradise nestled in its own little valley.

Outside of work, is there anything you'd like to share about you interests, hobbies, family, or volunteer work?

Most of my free time away from Saint Mary's I spend producing my own art. People interest me to no end and I focus on them as the basis of my art. I am a realist painter and use photography extensively. I could live in an art museum. I have successfully produced art videos (one of which opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and traveled extensively to art museums around the country and abroad), directed and co-authored a low budget horror movie (NightFeeder), several documentaries (an EBE Award for one) on UFO sightings and abductees and a current passion is computer 3D imagery. Non art related time is spent watching movies, local football teams (if they are winning) as well as the OU team, and I have a passion for NASCAR racing.

What would you like the SMC Community to know about you?

Just how much I appreciate and enjoy the people I work with here.

By Patty Wade