OGUNQUIT — A curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum who specializes in film and new media is the new executive director of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. Michael P. Mansfield, 42, begins his new job Feb. 1.

Museum board president David J. Mallen announced the hiring at a museum luncheon Monday. A search committee chose Mansfield from a field of more than 50 candidates, he said.

“I am really excited to join the creative neighborhood up there in Maine and northern New England,” Mansfield said in a phone interview. “The Ogunquit museum is a beloved member of the community, and the opportunity to contribute to that was really enticing.”

Mansfield grew up in east Texas. He received a bachelor’s degree in photography and art history from the University of Houston and a master’s in digital and electronic media from the Maryland Institute. He worked at the National Museum of Photography in the Czech Republic and in 2008 joined the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where he specialized in new media, contemporary technology and contemporary art. He designed the museum’s first gallery for moving images and curated exhibitions across a range of media.

He plans to bring his contemporary art sensibilities to the Ogunquit collection, which includes paintings, sculptures, photography and graphics by artists associated with the Ogunquit art colonies, famous Maine artists and important regional artists. Among the artists whose work is in the collection are Peggy Bacon, Marsden Hartley, Bernard Langlais and museum founder Henry Strater.

Mansfield said his first task will be “puttering around the collection quite a bit” and learning its nuances and depth from the docents and museum staff.

“They have more insight into the collection than anyone,” he said. “I am looking forward to learning from them.”

After he becomes familiar with the collection, he will look for ways to weave his contemporary art perspective into Ogunquit’s displays. Applying a contemporary perspective to traditional collections has been part of his work in Washington, he said, and there are opportunities for that in Ogunquit. “This is all part of the greater story of American art. It’s a long and broad and inclusive story, and that is what I am aiming to build upon,” he said.

Mansfield is familiar with Maine. His wife, Feodora Stancioff, grew up on Maine’s midcoast, and the couple were married in Maine. They have two children, ages 3 and 5, and plan to move to the Ogunquit area immediately.

Mallen said he expects Mansfield will bring “a new dimension to the museum.”

“He understands the collection, and he has respect for the history of the museum, but he approaches things with a new and contemporary excitement that we think is really going to benefit the community,” he said. “The biggest challenge for museums today is how do you stay relevant? That’s what Michael brings to the table in the form of a new perspective.”

The museum, which is open seasonally, drew 20,000 visitors in 2016, about 2,000 visitors shy of its record attendance in 2014. It operates with an annual budget of about $700,000. Mansfield replaces interim executive director Andres Verzosa, who will remain on the job until Mansfield begins. Previous director Ron Crusan led the museum for seven years, resigning last February.

Verzosa arranged the museum’s 2017 exhibition season, opening in May, that includes exhibitions by Dahlov Ipcar, John Marin, Will Barnet and Cabot Lyford, among others. Mansfield praised Verzosa for leaving the museum in good shape, financially and otherwise. “We have a fantastic future. Andy has done an extraordinary job of setting the stage for this next chapter,” he said.

The museum celebrates its 65th anniversary in 2018.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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