Mary E. Frank Brings Deep Experience And Artistic Passion To The Parrish Art Museum - 27 East

Arts & Living

Arts & Living / 1329228

Mary E. Frank Brings Deep Experience And Artistic Passion To The Parrish Art Museum

icon 1 Photo
Mary E. Frank and Howard Frank at the Parrish Art Museum Midsummer Party in July 2018.  MATTEO PRANDONI/BFA.COM

Mary E. Frank and Howard Frank at the Parrish Art Museum Midsummer Party in July 2018. MATTEO PRANDONI/BFA.COM Mary Frank, Howard Frank

author on Feb 14, 2019

In November 2012, the Parrish Art Museum opened the doors of its new Herzog and de Meuron-designed building in Water Mill. Around that same time, Fred M. Seegal became chair of the Parrish’s board of trustees, and he brought to the position a wealth of experience from the world of nonprofit organizations, particularly those focused on the performing arts.

Now, six years later, the museum has settled nicely into its new space, and Mr. Seegal’s term as board chair has expired.

On January 1, the mantle was passed to Mary E. Frank, who officially became president and interim chair of the Parrish board. Mr. Seegal will continue on in the role of chair emeritus.

“I’m very excited Fred will stay on and will be there to support Mary going forward,” museum director Terrie Sultan said by phone recently. She noted that during his six years of service, the museum moved into a new facility, developed enhanced programming, and made the first, foundational steps to becoming the new Parrish.

“We are so grateful for his leadership,” she said. “Now, we’re moving away from being a startup and looking at the next five years of our life.”

No matter how you look at it, those next five years will be led by a woman with an impressive background in the field of art.

A noted art historian with a specialty in the art of Renaissance Venice, Ms. Frank has a Ph.D. from Princeton and a master’s degree from the University of Miami. She is also a trustee of the American Academy in Rome and serves on the advisory board of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

But perhaps Ms. Frank’s most relevant experience in terms of the Parrish dates to her tenure on the board of the Miami Art Museum from 1994 to 2011, and where, as president from 2006 to 2009, she oversaw the selection of Herzog and de Meuron to design a new home for that museum, now called the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

“We were on an identical track, with the same architects and the same challenges, including raising the funds necessary to build and then sustain the proposed design,” stated Ms. Frank in a recent email exchange.

She added that she was impressed by Ms. Sultan’s success at the Parrish, not only in working with the architects to develop an affordable design but in terms of raising the necessary funds for the new building and executing the plan on time and under budget.

“Thanks to her practical approach, we have a sustainable museum that simultaneously maintains the values of its founders and functions effectively in the 21st century,” she added.

Ms. Frank and her husband, Howard, have lived in Miami for decades, but have an affinity for the Northeast. (He’s from Long Island, she’s from Washington, D.C.) The couple has a 25-year history as summer residents of the East End—first in Bridgehampton, and now, for the past 15 years, in Southampton.

When asked to expound on her thoughts about the Parrish as an institution, Ms. Frank expressed personal appreciation for the depth of the museum’s collection and its mission. She is also highly impressed by the building itself—how the gallery spaces highlight the artwork and the architects planned the large windows to provide glimpses of the natural environment.

While her professional expertise lies in Old World art, Ms. Frank also has a deep appreciation for the contemporary artists whose work dominates the Parrish’s permanent collection.

“Although my field of scholarship is Renaissance Venice, which was a world of art filled with the play of color and light, my husband and I collect the work of East End artists,” she said. “Their works are also inspired by the area’s unique color and light.

“From William Merritt Chase to Esteban Vicente, the way that the appearance of the natural world is captured and reflected in the work created here never ceases to be a cause for wonder,” she added. “It is an honor to be a steward of the Parrish collection.”

It’s a collection that, in many ways, has entered the global stage. During Mr. Seegal’s tenure as chair of the Parrish, the museum transitioned from a small, regionally known institution to one with much wider recognition beyond this area.

When asked in a recent phone interview for an assessment on how the Parrish has grown in the last half decade, and where he thinks the board will set its sights going forward, Mr. Seegal touched on the depth of the collection, new programming in place and, perhaps most importantly, the question of who is—and is not—visiting the museum.

“This has been the decade of great architecture for museums. I think people responded to the architecture,” said Mr. Seegal of the new building. “If we did an exhibition at the old place, the permanent collection was somewhere other than on the walls.

“The single most impressive thing is to demonstrate and show our permanent collection,” he added. “The surprise to people was how good the permanent collection is. We’ve also had people give us significant gifts of art. This dedicated circle of collectors has been supportive because we can do things we couldn’t do before.”

While in recent years, the Parrish has garnered many accolades and much attention from museum aficionados around the globe, Mr. Seegal, a Wainscott resident, finds that attracting visitors on the local level, particularly those who live east of Bridgehampton, has been a bigger challenge.

“I think, in some respects, our recognition outside the South Fork has exceeded our expectations, but it’s not reflected locally in terms of significant visitor levels,” he said. “We still have two fundamental problems. Traffic in summer is difficult—even if people are culturally inclined, it’s very hard for them to make a commitment in summer to go through three towns just to go to a museum.

“Our other issue, like Guild Hall, is that when people come out here, there is so much socializing and other activities in a 12-week period,” he added.

To that end, Mr. Seegal points to the Parrish’s strong lineup of family programming, symposiums, performing arts and chamber music concerts as being instrumental in bringing visitors through the door.

“We’ve done really good things. We’ve tried to be more than any museum has to be, more than a place where art is seen,” he said. “We have lots of non-museum-related activities … You get them to come to the museum for other reasons.

“I’m proud of that community outreach. I’m less proud of getting broader participation in the community,” he added. “We can’t change geography or traffic, but we need to mirror the prestige and reputation we have outside our narrow geographic niche by getting more people here.”

It’s a challenge that Ms. Frank is well aware of, and she already has definitive ideas of where her attention and that of the board will be focused at the Parrish in the months and years ahead.

“The collection, membership and possibly an endowment are all on my drawing board,” Ms. Frank said. “First on my list is developing programming that will lure visitors into the museum when the sun is shining. Rainy days are easy. It is ironic that the very aspect of the East End that inspires artists is also our biggest competitor in getting people through the door.”

She adds that while the Parrish board may be small, it is made up of an extremely dedicated and motivated group of professionals.

“I took this position not only because I admire the museum and its mission but because I genuinely like my fellow board members,” she said. “I believe that we have a great opportunity to continue building a great museum.”

You May Also Like:

Bret Anthony Johnston To Speak About New Novel With Canio’s

Renowned author and Sag Harbor resident E.L Doctorow once said, “the historian will tell you ... 19 Jul 2024 by Hope Hamilton

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner Inspire a Pair of Concerts at Duck Creek

On Thursday, July 25, at 6 p.m., The Arts Center at Duck Creek, in collaboration with the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, presents Jackson Pollock & Jazz (Quintet). Get ready for a unique evening that blends art and music as this is the first of two concerts sponsored by The Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center that is inspired by the record collection of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. The evening features the renowned quintet led by Ray Anderson (trombone/vocals) with Tommy Campbell (drums), Steve Salerno (guitar), Sam Dillon (saxophone) and Tom Manuel (cornet). Original arrangements inspired by the work of ... by Staff Writer

At the Carl Fisher House, 1960s Montauk Is Alive and Well

This summer, the Montauk Historical Society is turning back the clock to 1965 in an ... 18 Jul 2024 by Staff Writer

Rarely Shown Work of Sag Harbor Artist Mark Heming Featured in Montauk Show

The selected work of Mark Heming, an artist privately collected by many artists including David ... by Staff Writer

'June Zero' Screening and Q&A at Sag Harbor Cinema

Writer-director Jake Paltrow (“Young Ones,” “The Good Night,” “De Palma”) will join Sag Harbor Cinema ... 17 Jul 2024 by Staff Writer

‘What’s So Funny?’ a Panel Discussion at The Church

What is humor? Who gets to determine what is funny? Where do women comics find ... by Staff Writer

Catching Up With Paul Reiser Before His July 21 Performance in Westhampton Beach

Comedian and multihyphenate Paul Reiser returns to the East End this weekend for his first ... 16 Jul 2024 by Brendan J. O’Reilly

'War Game' Is a Political Thriller That Offers a Stark Look at the 2024 Election

It’s January 6, and thousands of insurgents have amassed on the National Mall in Washington ... by Annette Hinkle

Grammy-Winning Artist Laufey Hosting Concert To Benefit Montauk Historical Society

Grammy award-winning singer, composer,and multi-instrumentalist Laufey will perform for one night only to benefit the ... by Staff Writer

John Mulaney Performing in Montauk To Benefit Montauk Point Lighthouse

Three-time Emmy and WGA award-winning writer, actor and comedian John Mulaney will perform for one ... by Staff Writer