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New director named for Benton Museum

by Beth Krane - August 28, 2006

The School of Fine Arts has attracted a curator from one of the top art museums in the country to be the new director of the William Benton Museum of Art.

Steven Kern, curator of European art at the San Diego Museum of Art for the past nine years, assumed his new post at UConn during the summer.

Kern said he was drawn to the position - his first at a University-run art museum - by the upward trajectory of the University and the Benton; the large community of artists on campus and in the region; and the opportunity the University offers to be more "intellectually adventuresome" in the selection and presentation of exhibitions.

A New England native, Kern previously served as curator of paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.

"Museums are special places with the power to excite, inspire, educate, and even to transform lives," Kern says. "I am very excited to return to New England to join the cultural and intellectual community of the University of Connecticut, and I look forward to building on the Benton's tradition of excellence."

While at the San Diego Museum of Art, Kern rekindled interest in the 80-year-old museum's permanent collections; participated in extensive bilingual outreach through programs and exhibitions; and arranged exhibitions that attracted as many as 200,000 patrons.

As director of the Benton, Kern says, he hopes to strengthen the Benton's position at the core of the University, serve the student body and faculty, and reach the residents of the state of Connecticut and visitors from surrounding communities.

He plans to build the museum's collection while maintaining ties to its existing collections; take former director Salvatore Scalora's commitment to human rights to the next level; and to raise the museum's national and international profile.

Steven Kern, new director of the William Benton Museum of Art, came to UConn this summer from the San Diego Museum of Art.

Steven Kern, new director of the William Benton Museum of Art, came to UConn this summer from the San Diego Museum of Art.

Photo by Peter Morenus

"Steven Kern brings a rich background of European art to the Benton," says David G. Woods, dean of the School of Fine Arts.

"He will undoubtedly expand and enhance our programs and will contribute significantly to the future development of our collection and our activities at the museum."

University President Philip E. Austin adds: "We're proud of the William Benton Museum of Art and its collection, and the appointment of Steven Kern is a major step in fostering the future development of the collection.

"It is a step that will create new approaches to exhibitions and educational directions for the museum."

Kern will be formally introduced to the University community and the general public from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7, during a reception in his honor and a celebration of the opening of the Benton's new fall exhibits.

The museum, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, boasts a permanent collection of more than 6,000 works.

During the past five years, the museum has doubled its number of annual patrons from 20,000 to 40,000.

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