Sandy Harthorn, 70, has nurtured and cultivated Boise’s connection to and appreciation of visual art for nearly 40 years.
She started as a Boise Art Museum volunteer in 1976 and became a full-time employee in 1980. In her time as curator, she organized more than 400 exhibitions and oversaw the production of 45 catalogs and museum publications.
“I was lucky to be able to have a career doing this here and to grow as the museum has grown,” Harthorn said.
“Sandy’s curatorial vision and ability to identify artists on the brink of success have been hallmarks of her strengths that built the museum’s outstanding reputation in the local, regional and national community,” museum executive director Melanie Fales said in a statement.
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Harthorn saw two major expansions of the building and gallery spaces and helped cultivate the image of the art museum into a regional gem. She’s brought some of the best artists from the Northwest and the nation to Boise, including giving sculptor John Grade his first museum show. She organized blockbuster shows for artists such as Dale Chihuly, Georgia O’Keeffe and Edgar Degas, and oversaw the addition of nearly 3,000 pieces of work to the museum’s permanent collection.
“We now have one of the best ceramics collections in the region, plus deep collections of Asian art, Native American art and Northwest artists,” she said. “I’m really proud of that.”
Other accomplishments include the 75th anniversary exhibit (2011), “ Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth” (2012), “Chuck Close: Prints, Processes and Collaborations” (2007), and her many Idaho Biennials and Triennials that gave Idaho artists access to the art museum. She also helped to cultivate the world’s understanding of Idaho artist James Castle.
“I remember a show by Milton Avery, an early American modernist,” Harthorn said. “It was years ago, but I got to go to his home and studio in New York and go through his paintings with his daughter — of course he had passed, already, but that was an amazing experience. I’ve had so many amazing and special experiences over the years I’m so grateful for.”
Harthorn’s husband, Ed Cryer of MHW Global, also is retiring.
The museum board is launching a national search to fill Harthorn’s position.