Cartwright to leave Hood for San Diego

by Mark Herman | 5/10/04 5:00am

Derrick Cartwright will leave an impressive legacy on the Hood Museum of Art when he departs as its director in early September to lead the San Diego Museum of Art.

"I've been here four years, and I guess, I'm graduating," Cartwright said.

Despite budget cuts, Cartwright has expanded the museum through donations and grants, including a substantial contribution from the Class of 1948.

"We've managed to really grow in the most ambitious ways," he said.

College Provost Barry Scherr agreed on Cartwright's achievements. "I'm very sorry that he is leaving. I think he's done a wonderful job," Scherr said.

Cartwright's short tenure has seen major accomplishments, including the Jos Clemente Orozco in the United States exhibit, which was celebrated by The New York Times, and the Coming of Age in Ancient Greece exhibit, which will end its national tour at the J. Paul Getty Museum later this year.

"That kind of exposure to Dartmouth's museum has been very positive," Cartwright said.

Cartwright has also overseen substantial acquisitions, including a never-before-exhibited drawing by twentieth century American artist Eva Hesse. Cartwright said he expects this "huge discovery for the art historical community" to draw people from around the world to study it.

The Orozco exhibition and the Hesse work are just part of Cartwright's larger effort to "internationalize" the Hood's collection, gaining works from major African artists, Mexican artists and female artists, among others.

The Hood has also continued to involve students in many aspects of its work, including allowing students to advise on the museum's collections, acquisitions and exhibitions.

"The commitment to teaching ... has never been greater at the Hood," Cartwright said.

Under Cartwright's leadership, students have overseen small shows at the museum as part of A Space for Dialogue, a program through which students are treated like professional curators.

"The first thing you see when you walk through the door is the commitment to Dartmouth students," Cartwright said of the prominence of these exhibits.

Cartwright contrasted the involvement of Dartmouth students at the Hood to other college museums, including the one at which he worked as an undergraduate at the University of California-Berkeley.

"Other institutions are not willing to take the risks Dartmouth has," Cartwright said.

Cartwright came to the Hood from the Musee d'Art Amricain in Giverny, France in January 2001, because the Hood was "without question one of the best campus-based museums in the world," he said.

As for why he is leaving, Cartwright said the San Diego Museum of Art is a bigger facility in an urban context that attracts more people -- approximately 400,000 each year instead of the Hood's 40,000. It also has a larger staff and a more substantial budget.

"In a way, it is going back home for me," said Cartwright, who began his career teaching in San Diego.

Scherr said he is in the process of forming a search committee to hire Cartwright's successor as the Hood's director, but doubts someone will be found by Sept. 1, when Cartwright will leave. Cartwright has agreed to help the Hood throughout its transition.

Cartwright remained humble about his extensive accomplishments, often crediting his staff for their successes.

"This is an outstanding staff. I have every confidence [in them]. I've just been the lucky person who's been director," Cartwright said.