DOVER –– While studying forestry at Northern Illinois University, Charles A. Guerin’s life changed in a day.
“I had never really been to an art museum before and I went to a contemporary art show on campus and had an ‘ah-ha’ moment’ and I knew art was something I wanted to do,” he said.
His next step was to switch his major to art from which he first obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking before pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking and Art History and a Master of Arts degree in Painting, racking up nine years studying and working in Illinois.
After a six-month nationwide search for a new executive director, Dover’s Biggs Museum of American Art named Mr. Guerin to the position on March 11.
As the child of an airman, Mr. Guerin grew up all across the country before eventually settling down in his high school years just outside of Chicago and moving to nearby DeKalb, to study at Northern Illinois University.New Biggs Museum of American Art executive director Charles Guerin of Dover stands alongside some of the museum’s fine antique furniture Thursday morning.[/caption]
“I initially wanted to be a teacher, but there was a recession and there weren’t any teaching jobs when I graduated in 1974,” he said.
After being unable to find a job in education, Mr. Guerin opened a woodworking company for artists and weavers, which eventually evolved into an exhibition design company.
“It was after working for a museum on exhibition design that I became interested in becoming a curator and eventually a museum director,” he said.
Since his first stint as a museum employee, Mr. Guerin has developed a lengthy resume of experience including serving as the executive director of the University of Arizona Museum of Art, the commissioner of Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, and the executive director of the University of Wyoming Art Museum.
Most recently, Mr. Guerin served as executive director of The Hyde Collection in Glen Falls, New York.
Although the Biggs is in one of the smaller communities he has worked, it doesn’t give him any less respect for the museum.
“I have a great appreciation and respect for the Biggs Museum, its significant collection and its dedicated team,” he said. “Even though the Biggs is a nonprofit, it’s still a business and I will be working closely with the board and staff to develop programs and raise funds so the museum can reach its full potential.”
Mr. Guerin has extensive experience in nonprofit and asset management, having raised more than $30 million from external sources over his more than 25-year career in the highest level of museum positions.
The Biggs has typically focused on Kent County, but Mr. Guerin said he has plans to expand the museum’s impact in the area.
“We will do a lot of marketing to the region because cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore and Annapolis aren’t far and the Biggs has a fine collection that we should share with the region and all of Delmarva,” he said.
“For art lovers, coming to the museum is worth the drive.”
Mr. Guerin began working at the Biggs May 4, the week before the annual Biggs Gala, an event attended by more than 400 museum supporters and members of the community.
“It was a great opportunity to get to know a wide range of people, some of whom were supporters and others whose first time it was to the museum,” he said.
Mr. Guerin is already developing some ideas for new programs and exhibits, but they are only in the early planning stages.
“We usually plan about two years in advance, so right now, I’m considering programs and exhibits for 2017 and 18,” he said.
Soon, Mr. Guerin will start strategic planning for the museum.
“We are going to assess what the needs are in the community and how we can meet those needs,” he said.
Among the first improvements he wants to make are more programs to get both kids and seniors involved and interested in art and the museum.
Art isn’t just something Mr. Guerin does for a profession, he is an artist as well, focusing mainly on painting in a style he calls photo-realism.
Mr. Guerin and his wife Katherine have relocated to Dover from New York.
“I had never really been to Delaware before although I have passed through a few times,” he said. “But so far, it’s been really lovely and we’re enjoying it here.
Mr. Guerin succeeded Linda A.K. Danko following her retirement after 11 years as executive director.