Staff profile: Tony Hirschel

last edited on Tue. October 28 2014

Briefly, who are you, how long have you been here, and what is your (current and past) position(s) at the Smart?
I'm the Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum of Art. I came to the Museum in this role in June 2005.

Could you describe a typical day in your current role?
My days are filled with a wide variety of responsibilities, including everything from meeting with members of our board, other donors, students, our staff, and colleagues across the University and elsewhere to considering issues concerning the acquisition, conservation, and exhibition of works of art, budgets, personnel, planning, and facilities. I've also co-taught a course in Art Law in the Law School several times, and serve on a variety of boards and other organizations. My job also calls for occasional travel to see collectors, alumni, museums, and professional colleagues, although the destinations are not always quite as exotic as Hollywood might suggest. Regardless of the task, however, we have a truly remarkable staff who are a pleasure to work with. They ensure the job is stimulating, rewarding, and enjoyable every day.

Could you describe something about the Smart generally or about your role here specifically that you have found to be saliently special or unique or remarkable or enjoyable?
Although I've had the privilege of working in some wonderful museums, I have never worked anywhere in which there is greater mutual respect and support among members of the staff. Nor have I found another university museum that can begin to compete in the extent to which students are integrated into every element of the museum's work. And finally, the genuine spirit of interdisciplinarity that so characterizes the atmosphere of the University of Chicago ensures that no campus-based art museum anywhere is more deeply and meaningfully engaged in the life of its parent institution, both as a beneficiary of and as a contributor to its mission of teaching and research. I also have to say, on a different note, that it has given me enormous pleasure to see the continued, significant growth in theintegration of the Museum into the rhythm of students' lives. Thanks to the efforts of our staff and our Student Advisory Committee as well as the University's increased emphasis on the arts, more and more students have adopted the Museum as a warm and welcoming place they can think of as their own. For example, our late night Study at the Smart program every quarter brings hundreds of students to the Museum each year and has proven so successful that it has now inspired similar evenings at the Oriental Institute and the Logan Center.

What's the best food or drink on or near campus (and what’s so good about it)?
I've never had a meal I didn't enjoy at the Cedars on 53rd at Woodlawn. Delicious, simple, authentic food.

If the Smart Museum were an animal, what would it be and why?
A dolphin. Not the biggest in size, but smart, nimble, and beautiful to watch.

What’s so smart about the Smart Museum?
The experience of no other art museum will make your nerve endings tingle in the same way. There is always something new to see, experience, reflect upon, enjoy. All the things that make the University of Chicago a great and distinctive place enliven and illuminate the experience of the Smart through the lens of great, original works of art in an intimate environment.

What’s the best thing about Chicago’s horrible weather?
We get to complain about it while taking pride in our ability to survive it undaunted!

David or Alfred (and why)?
Probably more Alfred than David; David was definitely more mercurial than I am. But given their combined business genius and remarkable successes, it is really rather presumptuous of me to suggest a comparison to either of them.

Could you pick one to three words from the Smart Museum's list of Core Attributes that describe you and/or your time at the Smart?
Me: Accessible, Lively, Welcoming, Open, Engaging
My time at the Smart: Innovative, Interdisciplinary, Distinctive, Leader, Welcoming, Vibrant, Intriguing, Dynamic

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