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Contemporary to reopen with new director

June 30, 2013
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current07-437x660The Contemporary Museum, which suddenly suspended operations in May 2012,  will begin programing again, with new director Deana Haggag (pictured). Haggag just graduated from MICA’s curatorial studies program and was working as curator at Gallery CA in the City Arts Building.

The Contemporary hired director Sue Spaid in December 2010. Spaid organized the Baltimore Liste, a show that asked the different galleries in the city to nominate artists to show at the museum.  In 2011, the Liste shows, which changed every week and were accompanied by a party, did a great deal to make the museum feel relevant to the arts community. Later that year, however, the Contemporary had to move out of its location in the Home Mutual Life building on Center Street.

When George Ciscle founded the museum over two decades ago, the idea was that it was going to be nomadic, but the loss of a permanent location seemed to also cause the museum to lose direction. It hosted a couple shows in locations like Penn Station, and then ceased operations in the middle of the 2012 Liste, angering and confusing many involved with the show, and laid off all its employees.

According to Haggag, the Contemporary has dropped the “Museum” from its title and will remain nomadic–willfully so this time. “I think it’s smart for Baltimore to have an organization with the funding abilities that the Contemporary has that can stand to be a little more nimble.”

“We are definitely launching a lecture series in the fall in cooperation with the local spaces. So I sit down, for instance, with [erstwhile CP contributor] Alex [Ebstein] and Seth [Adelsberger] from Nudashank and ask ‘Who would be your dream speaker that you don’t have the ability to bring?’ We would have those people give a lecture and then visit local artists’ studios.” According to Haggag, the Contemporary, will also be working on “large-scale experiential projects that will not necessarily be exhibitions.”

The Contemporary has also made some changes to its board, with Terry Squyres of GWWO architectural firm as the President of the Board. “Mistakes were made,” Haggag says of the way the Contemporary closed.  “But the board now is amazing. When Liste shut down there were six active board members and they could have shut the Contemporary down–they almost should have shut it down. But they spent a year talking to foundations and clearing out their debt.  The Contemporary now has no debt.”

When the 26-year-old Haggag heard the Contemporary might re-open she did an independent study at MICA “where  I surveyed every single arts organization that exists in Baltimore, sort of their missions, and did a general landscape survey, and then when they said they were not getting a building, I surveyed nomadic institutions around the world, which is how my name got mixed up in it.”

Given the history of the Contemporary and her youth, Haggag admits that she is nervous as well as excited. “We have a lot to prove and a lot of people we owe explanations to, so this year will be interesting,” she says.