Words are inadequate to express my admiration and gratitude for each of the many well-wishers who attended my retirement party.
It was an evening of great memories—both professional and personal. In the many conversations throughout the evening, I was struck again and again by how much the Smart Museum and I owe to each one of you.
From my privileged position as student assistant before the opening of the Smart and then, six years later, to become its second curator, I have witnessed and, in some small way, helped shape a young institution into a leader among American university museums. While curators have a leadership role—and I am so fortunate to have worked with incredible curatorial colleagues over the years at the Smart—I firmly believe that museums function and do their best as a team effort. The many staff, past and present, at the event underscored how the Smart thrives because of the energy and vision of all its staff from all its departments including director, development, finance & administration, marketing & PR, education, registration, and security—many of the great individuals in these areas work so diligently behind the scenes, yet deserve the real praise.
I feel equally for those who as part of the larger University of Chicago staff who provide essential daily services: office and gallery cleaning, the management of the heating and essential climate control systems, and internet and other tech services.
The presence of members of our Smart Museum Board honored me as they are a critical voice as key supporters and advocates for all the Smart Museum does. A university museum has a special relationship to campus faculty, and it was humbling to have faculty from art history and other disciplines celebrate with me; I owe them so much from their insights into collection development and serving as guest-curators of many memorable exhibitions that the Smart. As you know, I have taken a long view of the Smart in my thirty-five years here, foremost in the development of a newly-formed permanent collection that today serves as a major resource for undergraduate and graduate teaching at the University, the stimulus for special exhibitions and other projects, and a focal point for public school programming within our Southside community.
I have always considered collectors and dealers special people and I especially value their insights into and knowledge of the arts they know so well; for me, it has been a second educational experience enriching beyond words my academic training.
No art museum exists without artists, designers, and architects, those who have fashioned the history of the visual arts. Since my days at the Renaissance Society where I daily worked with living artists, I have held a profound respect and admiration for their creativity and profound understanding of the human condition. To be surrounded my so many that evening, all of whom I am so happy to call friends, was a special experience for me.
And there are so many others who attended, who have enriched over the years my various roles as a curator of collections, exhibition organizer, and publications coordinator: conservators, installation specialists, designers, and curatorial volunteers, among others. As I retire, the great tradition of the Smart Museum to remain young in spirit, vigorous in its aspirations, and open to exciting new programming with each new hire will continue with the curators who fill the newly created Modern Art & Design Curator and dedicated Asian Art Curator positions.
Like me, they will draw inspirations and support from the wide-ranging colleagues, supporters, and admirers that have made such a difference in my years at the Smart.
Thank you all,
Richard A. Born