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New Main Line Art Center Leader Delivers More than First Installation Exhibit in Decade

Amie Potsic is the new executive director of the Main Line Art Center

Atmospheric artists' work

Having worked in virtually every capacity in the arts, from administrator to curator to artist to teacher, Amie Potsic brings a special mix of talents to her position as executive director of the Main Line Art Center in Haverford, where she replaced 25-year leader Judy Herman in July.

But it is her ability to multi-task that seems most impressive. The day before she was scheduled to give birth to her second  child, Potsic was answering questions (via email) about her new job, the first installation exhibit at the center in a decade, and inspiration behind some of her very personal photography.

Last Monday (Oct. 15), Potsic gave birth to a baby girl named Nadia, and both mother and daughter are happy and healthy.

Likewise, expect Potsic to deliver a new vibe at the 75 year-old center on the Main Line, where Potsic grew up from age 2. A photographer -- she describes her work as "conceptual, large-scale and installation that addresses culture, politics, beauty and the natural world" -- Potsic joins the center after a five-year stint as director of the career development program for Philadelphia-based Center for Emerging Visual Artists, curating some 70 exhibitions.

Potsic's curatorial debut at the Main Line Art Center' opens today (Oct. 19): Atmospheric is a collaboration with local artists collective InLiquid that creates experiential environments inspired by cultural phenomena.

Flying Kite (FK) This was MLAC's first installation exhibit in 10 years. Are you planning more frequent exhibits of this magnitude?
Amie Potsic (AP): Yes.  My vision for our exhibition program is to present a variety of exhibitions and types of artwork so that everyone can see themselves here.  In addition to our annual exhibitions that highlight our own community of artists, I am seeking to bring more contemporary and challenging exhibitions to engage viewers and increase the artistic dialogue at play.  Bringing compelling artists and artwork to our gorgeous exhibition venue will not only be a great educational experience for our community, but will offer an exciting artistic experience to artists, enthusiasts, patrons, and scholars in the Philadelphia region and beyond.
FK: Why atmospheric phenomena as the inspiration for the exhibit? Does it resonate personally for you?
AP: I am often enchanted by artwork that references nature and creates an interesting dialogue between humanity and our environment.  I think that because climate change is such an important issue, presenting artwork that encourages us to contemplate the natural world and our relationship to it is paramount.  I am also personally drawn to the aesthetic of each of the three artists in this exhibition.  Dianne Koppisch Hricko, Maureen Chiaccio and Delainey Barclay each have an exquisite sense of space, surface, and light in their work.  I find their pieces to be beautiful, surprising, and elegant, conveying both strength and fragility.
FK: Atmospheric is a collaboration with InLiquid. Do you anticipate more collaborations at MLAC?
AP: Absolutely.  I think that collaborating with other organizations that can bring fresh and unique artists and perspectives to the Art Center is essential.  Collaborating is a wonderful way to increase both organizations’ reach, audiences, resources, and learning potential.  I have a lot of experience creating partnerships with non-profit organizations and educational institutions in the Philadelphia area and plan to continue on that path.  When we work together, we can all go so much farther.
FK: Much of your photography work is abroad, like Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America. Why?
AP: I spent much of the last 20 years traveling the world with my camera.  It has been such a rewarding experience to see and learn about the world through my camera and my artwork.  I am intrinsically intrigued by other cultures and learning new things.  My camera allows me to see the world with a fresh perspective and to have a license to look closely and gain access to that which is compelling.  My camera is what gained me entry into temples in India, ceremonies in Mexico, and small villages in Brazil.  Creating work abroad is always exciting and teaches me as much about myself as the world around me.
FK: An exhibit you did in San Francisco juxtaposed large color portraits of old mannequins with self-portraits of you recovering from facial wounds suffered in a bus accident. Do you often insert yourself into your work, or do you believe it's something that artists should do in more deliberate ways?
AP: That body of work naturally grew out of a previous project, life circumstance, and travel to a new culture.  I had been working on a series of photographs of people with scars for about 2 years before traveling to Peru and seeing seas of old mannequins on display that looked scarred or wounded.  A few weeks into that journey, I was in an overnight bus accident where I incurred a facial injury.  When you’re a photographer and something happens, you photograph it.  So, I took a photograph of myself each day after the accident not actually intending to do anything with them.  Essentially, it was a way of processing the accident and I thought I might use them for insurance purposes.  When I got back from the journey and saw the photographs of me next to the mannequin images, it was uncanny how similar they looked.  It seemed that the mannequins were my doppelgangers.  So, I somewhat reluctantly created a body of work where portraits of me juxtaposed with portraits of mannequins referenced the phenomena of serendipity, destiny, and fate.  I think that self portraiture is a wonderful way to create work, but I’m personally not as comfortable being in front of the camera as behind the camera.
FK: How did your previous position at CFEVA prepare you for this job?
AP: Working at CFEVA allowed me a lot of experience, growth, and autonomy, all of which prepared me well for joining the Art Center.  At CFEVA, I curated over 70 exhibitions and had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented artists I’ve encountered.  I also managed a board of artistic advisors and over 200 alumni of the organization.  In addition, I had the opportunity to partner with numerous organizations and got to know the cultural landscape of Philadelphia very well.  And now, I intend to bring those relationships and previous partnerships to my work at the Art Center.
FK: What drew you to the position at MLAC?
AP: I was drawn to the position at MLAC because I thought I could bring my 20 years of experience in the field to benefit an organization with a wonderful history, strong future, and warm community.  Additionally, my background has afforded me the opportunity to wear the many hats that would make me successful at the Art Center.  I am an artist myself.  I was an art educator for many years in a number of contexts including being an Adjunct Professor at UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute.  I have been a Gallery Director and also an Arts Administrator and Curator for over 7 years with experience in non-profit organizations in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco.  Being Executive Director of the Art Center allows me to combine all of these experiences to help further one organization.  What a joy!
FK: What's been your biggest priority since starting at MLAC in July?
AP: My biggest priority since starting at MLAC has been getting to know its wonderful community while laying the foundation for an innovative and robust exhibition program.  I feel it’s very important to learn about and respect the wonderful history of the organization and its thriving community of artists, faculty, and friends of all ages.  At the same time, I am focused on creating a future for the organization that brings it to the forefront of artistic discovery and dialogue.
FK: What's one thing you'd like to change at MLAC?
AP: One thing I’d like to do is improve the facilities at the Art Center.  I am very lucky because we are in the midst of a capital campaign to do just that.  We have incredible renovation plans that begin in April to improve our painting, ceramics, and jewelry studios as well as to create a digital lab that will allow us to integrate digital technologies in our programming.  With a generous lead matching grant of $600,000 from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and funding from numerous foundations and families, we only have  $300,000 more to raise to reach our goal of $1.4 million.  To help make this improvement to our building a reality, we are inviting everyone to donate to the campaign to enable MLAC to continue to serve the local community and to increase access to art for everyone.
FK: MLAC has a very specific mission, to inspire creativity for all ages and abilities. Why do you believe that's important and can you relate it something you've experienced?
AP: I believe deeply in our mission of art for everyone.  I am a strong proponent of the idea that art is accessible and essential to a well rounded and fulfilling life. All children are artists.  Most people just learn along the way to think they are not artists, not creative, that art is not for them.  But, I think art is for all of us on different levels and in different ways.  That is why I am excited to be a part of all the ways we offer community members of all ages and all artistic abilities entry points into the arts.  It’s very exciting to provide exceptional artistic quality without being at all pretentious.  I strongly support quality without elitism.  I have had the good fortune to teach art to at-risk youth, children, teenagers, college students, graduate students, mature artists and seniors.  Having that experience has taught me that art is for all of us no matter how new we are to the practice or how educated we are in the field.
FK: What else exciting is coming up at MLAC that we should know about? Anything new?
AP: With the renovation of our building this spring, we will be presenting a refreshed and rejuvenated Art Center in the fall of 2013.  The building will be expanded, the facilities improved, our programs strengthened, and our scholarship programs increased.  We are looking to the future with the exciting changes made possible by a successful capital campaign and I look forward to presenting a regular program of innovative and fresh exhibitions that will engage and excite our audiences.

JOE PETRUCCI is managing editor of Flying Kite. Send feedabck here.
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