Ron Crusan, who introduced a new generation of contemporary Maine artists to museum audiences in southern Maine, is leaving the Ogunquit Museum of American Art after seven years to serve as personal curator for Maine entrepreneur Linda Bean.

Crusan informed the museum board of his decision Thursday morning. His last day is March 31. The museum opens for the season May 1.

Crusan lives in Wells and will move to the midcoast to serve as curator and director of art operations for Bean, granddaughter of Maine retail icon L.L. Bean. Among her business operations, she opened a gallery in Port Clyde last summer featuring her private collection of paintings by three generations of Wyeths. The gallery, Linda Bean’s Maine Wyeth Art Gallery, is above the Port Clyde General Store, which she also owns.

Crusan challenged some longtime supporters of the Ogunquit museum by mounting exhibitions of contemporary art, expanding the range of art typically associated with the seaside museum. In recent years, he has shown sculpture by Portland artist Lauren Fensterstock, paintings by Berwick artist Richard Brown Lethem and drawings by Lyman artist Amy Stacey Curtis.

Crusan will run the gallery and also take over a private art-tour business that Bean began three years ago. She owns a home on an island off Port Clyde, near where N.C. Wyeth bought a home in the 1920s, and has given boat tours of Port Clyde and neighboring islands that include a visit to her island home and her collection of N.C. Wyeth paintings.

N.C. Wyeth was the father of Andrew Wyeth, who also had an island residence off Port Clyde, and grandfather of Jamie Wyeth, who still does.

“She wants to build an orientation center and create a destination for her collection,” Crusan said. “She has a lot of rental properties there and is trying to build on the tradition of the Wyeths in Maine, to give tours and talk about their living there in the summers. N.C. has been present in Port Clyde for 100 years now, and Jamie is still there, of course.”

In addition to her property in Port Clyde, Bean owns a home near the museum in Ogunquit. Crusan met her at a museum event soon after he became museum director. That led to a visit at her home, where Crusan admired her art collection and, in particular, her collection of paintings by Andrew Wyeth.

“Have you ever shown these?” he recalled asking Bean then.

When she said no, his next question was, “Would you like to?”

Bean showed some of her Wyeth paintings at the Ogunquit Museum in summer 2014, when attendance peaked at 22,000 paid admissions.

In addition to operating the gallery during summer months, Crusan will help Bean catalog and organize her collection during the winter. Part of his job will be scouting the market for Wyeth paintings and advising her on purchases. “My job essentially is making her art operation part of the Maine art scene, which I don’t think it has been until this point,” Crusan said. “It’s been a well-kept secret until this point.”

Bean did not return phone messages Thursday.

Ogunquit museum board president David J. Mallen said Crusan’s departure comes at a good time for the museum. The museum is doing well, and the board has been writing a new strategic plan.

“The museum has grown under Ron’s direction. We’re stronger financially and organizationally, and we’re also in a transition point to get to the next level,” Mallen said. “We’re mapping out our future. I’m thrilled for Ron. It’s a good opportunity for him, and it’s a good opportunity for us as well.”

A job search will begin immediately, but the board won’t rush the process, Mallen said.

The museum drew 16,000 visitors last year. The budget grew substantially, from $350,000 in 2009 to $638,000 for the current year.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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