Art Place is looking for a new director

Resignation: Jack Rasmussen led the gallery through a growth spurt.

February 25, 2002|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,SUN STAFF

Maryland Art Place is looking for a new executive director, as Jack Rasmussen has announced he's leaving after 10 years at the helm of the nonprofit gallery, which features artists from the Baltimore-Washington area.

A former northern California resident, Rasmussen will be finishing work at MAP on Friday to become executive director of the di Rosa Preserve: Art and Nature in Napa, Calif., northeast of San Francisco. The nonprofit gallery and nature preserve in the wine country specializes in regional artists.

Rasmussen was on the West Coast over the weekend and could not be reached for comment. In a written statement, he said: "I have enjoyed every second of my time in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. region," where he has established his academic and professional credentials since the early 1970s.

"I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and this is a wonderful opportunity for me to return home," said Rasmussen, 52, who lives in Bethesda with his wife and two children.

Since he became MAP's third executive director in 1992, Rasmussen has seen the organization through growth and change, as the annual budget about doubled to $500,000 and the gallery moved across town -- from Saratoga Street to Power Plant Live!, a new cluster of restaurants and entertainment spots across from Port Discovery.

Last year's move to the new gallery is "emblematic of his drive and perseverance and trying to bring the organization to the next level," says Coleen West, former MAP development director who now heads the Howard County Arts Council.

"The quality of the exhibits became much more professional" during his tenure, says Fred Lazarus, president of Maryland Institute College of Art and a founding member of the MAP board of directors. Lazarus, who was on the search committee that recommended Rasmussen for the position, says Rasmussen moved with ease between the worlds of artists and patrons, acting as curator, administrator and the gallery's voice in the community.

"He had this wonderful quality of scholarship to his work," says Karen Bokram, current president of the MAP board of directors. "He did wonderful shows."

Founded in 1981, MAP has been a showcase for regional artists, offering exhibits for a range of tastes and in a broad array of media. A recent exhibition featured one room of charcoal drawings based on photographs of bushmen of South Africa's Kalahari desert, another room of color portrait photographs of women, all shown with their eyes closed. In a third room were gigantic drawings blending architecture and figures into a kind of dreamscape.

Last year, Rasmussen called on artists to come up with designs for public monuments to the present day. The results were variously sober and whimsical, abstract and literal.

Rasmussen brought to the position a combination of academic credentials and experience as an art entrepreneur and administrator.

He holds master's degrees in painting, arts management and anthropology and a doctorate in anthropological linguistics, all from American University in Washington. While accumulating all these letters after his name, Rasmussen also worked at different times running a for-profit art gallery in Washington, serving as assistant director of the Washington Project for the Arts and founding Rockville Arts Place in Montgomery County, where he served as executive director until he took the position at MAP.

MAP assistant director Julie Cavnor has been named acting executive director pending the appointment of Rasmussen's successor.

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