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Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Director Malcolm Rogers on Vision, Growth and Transformation

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Recently, I sat down with Malcolm Rogers, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston, to discuss the institution's philosophy and vision, the new Art of the Americas Wing, education and outreach, and the transformative nature of art.

The following is an excerpt, while the full interview can be found here.

Rahim Kanani: What inspires you and motivates you to be in this field, atop a non-profit arts institution?

Malcolm Rogers: It's my early experience with my parents in fact, and also with great teachers. I wasn't born in a privileged background. I was brought up in a very tiny, tiny village in Britain. But early on, my parents or friends of my parents took me to museums or in Britain to stately homes. And I can remember those first visits quite clearly. I remember going to college, having a room of my own, and going out to junk shops and buying prints and reproductions and so on, but beginning to realize that art was the most amazing imaginative world.

I didn't study art at college, I learned on the job to be honest. And so for me, from the very earliest years, right up to today, art is entwined in my mind with the notion of transformation; that it can change your life. And I am here in the business of trying to change people's lives.

My colleagues will tell you, I sometimes say about a work of art that we are acquiring, "a child coming to the museum for the first time will always remember this piece." And I want to create or encourage those intensely memorable experiences.

A good example of this is the two monumental sculptures of baby heads, "Day and Night," by Spanish artist Antonio Lopez Garcia, that we put outside the Museum's Fenway Entrance. You see all the time, children running up to touch them; to pat them. And you see all the time people photographing their children in front of those heads. That to me is the kind of enduring memory that motivates people to think museums are special places and to return.

Rahim Kanani: For individuals, students or otherwise, who are not in the arts scene, or who do not visit museums often, how do you convey a sense of appreciation of the arts, and imbue the notion that this scene and this culture can in fact change your life as you noted earlier?

Malcolm Rogers: I believe everybody is part of the art scene. As soon as you choose a sweater that you're going to wear, or what music you're going to listen to, you are making aesthetic choices. So how do we build bridges between the concerns of everyday life of the young people and the museum where they can find a resource? If you're interested in fashion, you can come here and look at textiles or fashion arts. Nothing could be more a part of the contemporary scene or relevant to people's lives.

Recently, we mounted an exhibition celebrating the art of the tattoo in Japan; incredibly popular, and especially popular with young people who are interested in the art of personal adornment. When they visit the exhibition they will discover their interests shared by very respectable 19th century Bostonians, who, when they went out to Japan, went to the leading tattoo artists and were tattooed. And you never knew that under their suits and what not, there were tattoos. Note the phrase tattoo artists.

Rahim Kanani: With such an early exposure to arts and culture, how has this exposure impacted your life?

Malcolm Rogers: I've morphed from an amateur interested in art to a director of a major museum, with a mission to bring art to people. I have experienced this miracle in my life, and I now see myself as an enabler; raising the funds or the resources, creating the opportunities for curators and collectors to express their visions through the medium of a museum...continue reading.

The full interview can be found here.