CHIEF CURATOR. Namita Gupta Wiggers began her duties as the director
and chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Craft this summer.
From The Asian Reporter, V22, #17 (September 3, 2012), page 15.
The constancy of change: Namita Gupta Wiggers
appointed director and chief curator at MoCC
By Josephine Bridges
The Asian Reporter
I like the constancy of change," says Namita Gupta Wiggers, the newly
appointed director and chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Craft
(MoCC). Curator at MoCC since 2004, and associated with the museum as a
jeweler since 1999, Namita has clearly found constancy there. But in the
two months she’s held her new position, she has found plenty of change,
too. She seems right where she belongs.
Born in Cincinnati, Gupta Wiggers is the daughter of an Indian father
from Calcutta and a mother from Pune. "Being Indian has always been very
important to me," she says. "When you come to the states, your rich
history is invisible. It becomes a very challenging thing." She allows
that her ethnic and cultural background is "not yet relevant" to
her work at the museum, but she puts unmistakable emphasis on the word
Namita’s experience with museums goes way back beyond what’s listed
on her résumé. She remembers how the Cincinnati Art Museum smelled when
she was six years old. She remembers that, when her family was living in
New Jersey, her mother drove new immigrants around New York City and
used the city’s museums as "a portal to understand culture in the U.S."
And she remembers spending hours at the Menil Collection in Houston,
reading about works of art as she sat in front of them.
"It’s a privilege to get to be physically near a real object, as
opposed to on the internet or in a book," she explains. "Objects catch
you off guard, make you step out of yourself. That proximity is why I
work in museums."
In her previous position at the museum, Gupta Wiggers curated five
exhibits a year, bringing in collaborators on specific projects. Now
that she will oversee the museum both "overall and in integrated
partnership with the Pacific Northwest College of Art" (PNCA), she will
still supervise the exhibition program, but two new colleagues will
curate two shows a year each, leaving one for her. "Museum-goers will
see multiple perspectives, hear from multiple voices," she says.
What does the future at MoCC look like? "Right now, we have an
opportunity to redefine the role of the museum in the next century,"
says Gupta Wiggers, moving between a more passive attitude she calls
"feed me" to a more active approach she characterizes as "I want to
select what I want to take away from this museum." She allows that it is
possible to address both relationships with the museum, but "not
everything will be relevant to everyone, and museum-goers have to meet
Brought on board as curator in 2004 in part to help shape the
transition from the museum’s original home on S.W. Corbett Street,
Namita is keenly sensitive to the importance of location. "How to be a
relevant museum in a small city" is one of the questions she plans to
answer, and she also perceives the museum’s location on the edge of
Chinatown as part of its identity.
Don’t be surprised if Gupta Wiggers takes a chance or two as she
helps propel MoCC forward. "I admire people who are willing to take
risks, try something new that shapes the future, rather than let the
future happen to them." She is particularly excited about the idea of "a
museum that functions as a laboratory," thanks to the partnership of
MoCC and PNCA.
Asked what was important to her that our readers know, Gupta Wiggers
answered swiftly and surely. "The Museum of Contemporary Craft is here
for the community, a resource for people to come and be inspired,
provoked, and made aware of the breadth of human creativity, and to see
your own place in this."
MoCC is located at 724 N.W. Davis Street in Portland. To learn more,
call (503) 223-2654 or visit <www.museumofcontemporarycraft.org>.