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Artists Carrie Mae Weems and Marie Watt among new slate of Museum trustees

The Portland Art Museum welcomed prominent artists Carrie Mae Weems and Marie Watt to its Board of Trustees in its virtual annual meeting earlier this month. 

“I am so honored and excited that Carrie Mae Weems and Marie Watt accepted our invitation to help lead our institution at this crucial time,” said Brian Ferriso, Director and Chief Curator of the Portland Art Museum. “Our communities need the arts more than ever, and it is vital to have the wisdom of these consequential artists who have both contributed so much and in so many ways to our lives.”  

Watt and Weems are among nine new or returning trustees joining the Museum’s 70-member Board of Trustees. The role of the Board of Trustees is to lead in the governance of the institution, including budget approval and oversight of the Museum’s finances and assets, hiring and evaluating the performance of the Executive Director, and serving on subcommittees overseeing the areas such as the Museum’s collections, development, equity and inclusion, finances and investments, learning and community partnerships.

“I am so thrilled about the incoming group of trustees,” said Board Chair Fred Jubitz. “My family has been closely involved with the Museum for nearly three decades, and seeing the enthusiasm and range of artists, community leaders, and professionals from many different sectors is a testament to the work that Museum and Northwest Film Center are doing in this city.” 

The Portland Art Museum’s new trustees include: 

  • Catherine Blanksby: An investor and connector within Portland’s startup community,  Blanksby has been a participant in the Oregon Venture Fund supporting local entrepreneurs. An ardent supporter of film and visual arts, she recently sponsored the Women’s Vision Production Grant for Women in Film Portland and serves on the Northwest Film Center Committee.
  • Kirk L. Dobbins: Vice President and Regional Counsel for Kaiser Foundation Hospitals/Health Plan, Dobbins serves on the board of directors for the American Health Law Association and two community non-profit agencies. He is an avid traveler and collector of art who spends time in art museums around the world whenever possible. 
  • Phillip T. Hillaire: A citizen of the Lummi Nation, Hillaire has served on the Museum’s Native American Art Advisory Committee since 2016. He is an active community volunteer liaison to tribal artists and Portland’s Native community, including organizing a Pop-up Shop for Native American artists in association with the Museum’s 2016 exhibition Native Fashion Now
  • Brue McHayle  A Senior Product Director for Nike’s Jordan Brand, McHayle is originally from Brooklyn, NY, where he developed a keen interest in graffiti art, hip hop, comics and sports, with art always as the foundation of how he saw the world. During high school and college, he founded a clothing company, launching a 30-year career in the apparel, entertainment and music industry. 
  • Rolando Pozos: A managing director in the Mergers & Acquisitions group at Bank of America Securities, Pozos is passionate about the arts and education. He is the founder of “Nostra Causa,” a private organization supporting programs to aid homeless children in Mexico, and a member of the World Education & Development Fund in New York, which sponsors educational programs for children in Latin America.
  • Greg Tibbles: A Portland native, Tibbles retired in 2013 after a career in the energy industry that included 20 years living and working in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. He currently serves on the board of directors at the Portland Opera. Tibbles and his wife, Cathy, are committed supporters of the Museum and its Connections Campaign.
  • Cheryl Tonkin: A prominent volunteer leader in the community, Tonkin is not only a longtime supporter of the Museum but helped bring the community to the Museum as a  past member of its leadership staff. As the Museum’s Public Relations and Marketing Director, she created the concept of Museum Family Sunday and marketed blockbuster exhibitions such as Imperial Tombs of China in 1996, expanding the Museum’s outreach in the community.
  • Marie Watt: An American artist and citizen of the Seneca Nation with German-Scots ancestry, Watt draws in her contemporary work from history, biography, Iroquois protofeminism, and Indigenous teachings. Watt currently serves on the executive board for VoCA (Voices in Contemporary Art) and on the Native Advisory Board for the Portland Art Museum. 
  • Carrie Mae Weems: Born in Portland and now living and working in Syracuse, N.Y, Weems is one of the most influential contemporary American artists living today. Her complex body of work investigates race, family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power. The Portland Art Museum has presented two retrospectives of her art, Carrie Mae Weems in 1994 and Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video in 2013.
Photo of Marie Watt by Sam Gehrke, courtesy of the artist.

Marie Watt, who lives and bases her artistic practice in Portland, has artwork in museum collections across the country, from the Portland Art Museum to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. Her work was featured in the 2019 exhibition Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

“As an Indigenous woman, I feel like art, life and story are intimately linked, and the Portland Art Museum offers a space—inside the four walls, but also outside in our community—to amplify that message,” said Watt in her video message during the Museum’s virtual annual members meeting on October 7. 

Photo of Carrie Mae Weems by Audoin Desforges, courtesy of the artist.

Carrie Mae Weems has sustained an influential artistic dialogue for more than 30 years, employing photographs, text, fabric, audio, digital images, installation, and video. Her work is in the collections of museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York as well as the Tate Modern in London. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the MacArthur “Genius” grant, the prestigious Prix de Roma, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Weems has been an inspiration to contemporary artists such as Mickalene Thomas, who frequently credits Weems’ 1994 retrospective at the Portland Art Museum as a transformative moment that set her on the path to becoming an artist herself. In a New York Times review of Weems’ 2012-2014 traveling retrospective, Holland Cotter wrote, “Ms. Weems is what she has always been, a superb image maker and a moral force, focused and irrepressible.”

“Art, music, dance, literature are crucial to our lives and to our very survival,” said Weems in her video message during the Museum’s virtual members meeting. “It’s the soul of a nation. It’s the way that we come to know the world around us and ourselves. It’s our way of understanding this extraordinary thing we call Life.” 

“I’m in love with art,” Weems continued. “I don’t know what I would do without it; it’s changed every facet of my life and my time here on this planet. It’s shaped how I see and how I feel. I don’t know really what the world would do without art. I can’t imagine a world without it. And so we need to support art, artists and the cultural institutions that bring it to us. We need to support art like our very lives depend on it, because frankly, it does.” 

The Portland Art Museum’s full Board of Trustees roster can be found online. This year’s full virtual members meeting, including the introduction to the Museum’s new Trustees, is posted on the Museum’s YouTube channel.