I Am An American: Graeme Reid, bringing people together through art
Graeme Reid, director of collections and exhibitions at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend, grew up in Scotland and came to the U.S. in 1990. He became an American citizen in 2008, just days before the election. Video by Mark Hoffman Mark Hoffman
Graeme Reid, director of collections and exhibitions at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend, grew up in Scotland and came to the U.S. in 1990. He became an American citizen in 2008.(Photo: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)Buy Photo
As Americans, we are a diverse population. Historically, we have embraced that diversity as what brings us together and truly makes us one nation encouraging all to seek life, liberty and happiness. By sharing our individual differences and finding commonalities, we can work to unify the nation. One thing unites us: We are all Americans. Each week, this series will introduce you to an exceptional American who is making a difference to unite, rather than divide, our communities. Read more of their stories at onenation.usatoday.com.
West Bend – Art museums sometimes have reputations as lofty, elitist, even unapproachable institutions. Graeme Reid thinks art should be accessible to everyone. As director of collections and exhibitions at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, Reid trumpets the talent and dedication of artists in Wisconsin. He judges art competitions and gives tours of the gleaming four-year-old museum on the Milwaukee River.
He believes beauty, in the form of paintings, sculpture, drawings and other artwork, can bring people together.
“Art offers you a different view or a different take. Maybe it makes you change your mind,” said Reid, 55. “Museums tend to unite rather than divide. Museums elevate rather than denigrate. Museums are more relevant now than ever.”
Reid is an American by choice. His lilting accent betrays his origins he grew up in Scotland and was a student at the University of Glasgow when he was offered a scholarship and graduate assistantship at Indiana State University. He worked weekends as a security guard at Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Ind., and began giving lectures and tours before eventually getting hired as a part-time curator. In 2001 he moved to Sheboygan, Wis., to work at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Two years later was hired by the Museum of Wisconsin Art. The mission of the museum: to celebrate the value, diversity and uniqueness of art in Reid’s adopted home state. Reid believes in getting involved in his community and giving back. Though he curates professional art exhibitions and has judged competitions on the state and national level, Reid volunteers as a judge for an annual VFW patriotic art contest, home-schooled art competitions, a duck decoy decorating contest, and the Lakefront Festival of the Arts in Milwaukee.
After 18 years in America, Reid decided to become a citizen. America had become his country and he wanted to pledge his allegiance. He became a citizen on a Thursday and the following Tuesday he voted in the 2008 presidential election.
“Without sounding awfully cliched, America has been very good to me,” Reid said.
Location: West Bend, Wis.
Profession: Director of collections and exhibition, Museum of Wisconsin Art
Mission: To spread the joy of art to everyone
More info: wisconsinart.org
Q and A with Graeme Reid
What does it mean to you to be an American? To be an American means I am a citizen. Originally being from the U.K. I was a subject. But I m a citizen here and I get to participate in every facet of life, political life, and I can vote for the dog catcher to the president. Being a citizen was something that was very important to me.
What moment touched and motivated you to launch this effort? What motivated me to be part of the Museum of Wisconsin Art was to get in on the opportunity to give Wisconsin its own museum that focuses on the art and artists of Wisconsin. To be a part of bringing that to not just the people of Wisconsin but also to be part of bringing that to a national audience as well was just a tremendous opportunity.
What gives you hope or what concerns you? What concerns me I think is the political division and a coarsening of culture. But what gives me hope is the role an institution such as the Museum of Wisconsin Art can do. I think museums provide more unity than division. It also provides an elevation of culture rather than a coarsening of culture.
What do you hope to accomplish through your efforts? I hope that the art and artists of Wisconsin will appreciate what we do for them. But I think the public will hopefully appreciate what we do for them in terms of recognition of the talent within this state. Not just talent from the past, but current talent and future talent as well.
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