A protracted search for a new curator at the Wichita Art Museum has come to a resolution.
The museum announced this week it has hired Tera Hedrick as its new curator, effective immediately.
Hedrick – who has a doctorate in art history from Northwestern University – has served as interim curator of the museum for the past seven months.
The museum’s most recent curator, Lisa Volpe, left in November 2016 to accept a position as associate curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
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Hedrick, a Wichita East High School graduate, said Tuesday she looks forward to exploring further the museum’s expansive American art collection.
“I’m an art historian because of this museum,” she said. “I learned to love art here, and that’s who I am. That’s my passion; that’s my life. To get the opportunity to come back and to participate in this place that’s been so foundational to my life ... was just extraordinary.”
In January 2017, the Wichita Art Museum mounted a national search for a new curator – one that attracted “incredible stars” in the art world, according to Patricia McDonnell, director of the museum.
However, the museum found none of those candidates were “quite the right fit for the Wichita Art Museum at this moment,” McDonnell said.
“We came to that conclusion in May (2017),” McDonnell said – and the organization planned to begin its search anew in the Fall of 2017.
Meanwhile, Hedrick had been brought to the museum as a research fellow in Fall 2016 to work on an Americana exhibition.
In May 2017, she was promoted to an interim curator role.
After a few months, “she was just doing so brilliantly” that McDonnell said she realized “we already had our next great curator of the Wichita Art Museum.”
“It’s always an amazing positive for an organization when you are able to find talent from within and promote,” McDonnell said. “Tera is an extraordinary talent, and we are fortunate to keep her in her hometown of Wichita.”
After attending East, Hedrick earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas – whose art history department, led by former Smithsonian American Art Museum director Charles Eldredge, is regarded as a “powerhouse” in the art world, according to McDonnell.
Then, after receiving her doctorate at Northwestern, she lived overseas for several years working fellowships in places like Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece.
Most recently before the Wichita Art Museum, she worked as a visiting assistant professor of art history at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y.
“Over the last couple of years I’ve wanted to come home,” Hedrick said. “Just the opportunity to come back to Wichita – to be here and to get to participate and do something important in my own community is really extraordinary.”
As curator, Hedrick is responsible for creating creative programming with the museum’s collection, organizing exhibitions with related publications and brainstorming creative new ways for the museum to engage with its visitors.