Alumna and next director of Brooklyn Museum Anne Pasternak ‘created her own path’

By Shelby Ashline

The Brooklyn Museum in 2008. It is the second largest art museum in New York.
The Brooklyn Museum in 2008. It is the second largest art museum in New York.

University of Massachusetts alumna Anne Pasternak will embark on a new chapter in her life this September when she succeeds Arnold L. Lehman as director of the Brooklyn Museum.

According to a New York Times article, Pasternak’s appointment is particularly notable as she will be the first female director of the Brooklyn Museum – the second largest art museum in New York – in its 120-year history.

Faculty and staff at UMass who know and have worked with the 50-year-old said they are proud of her accomplishments, though are not surprised. They remember Pasternak as a driven woman who had a goal and set out to achieve it.

“It was very clear in her mind that this was the kind of work she wanted to do,” said Michael Coblyn, a studio arts professor and former director of the Herter Gallery. “(This position) is something she has worked very hard to achieve.”

Coblyn first started teaching at UMass in 1982, when Pasternak began her freshman year. Not only was he one of Pasternak’s art teachers, but he was also her supervisor during her internship at the Herter Gallery.

“She was a very integral assistant,” Coblyn said, noting that they worked on organizing exhibitions together.

Through the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration program, Pasternak received her degree in museum management in 1986.
Coblyn said that the BDIC program allowed Pasternak to broaden her scope of the campus and provided her with more possibilities in terms of coursework. Loretta Yarlow, director of the University Museum of Contemporary Art and a friend of Pasternak’s for 13 years, believes it allowed Pasternak to begin tapping into her creativity.

“(The BDIC program) was her way of being the creative person that she was,” Yarlow said. “She created her own path and always knew what she wanted.”

According to the Times, following her graduation, Pasternak initially worked as curator for Real Art Ways of Hartford, Connecticut, an organization that presents the work of contemporary artists. She later worked as the director and co-founder of BRAT, a nonprofit organization in Manhattan that focuses on highlighting emerging artists, stated the article.

However, it wasn’t until 1994 that Pasternak began working with Creative Time, an organization that coordinates exhibits in the public realm throughout New York, the United States and even internationally. Under her leadership as president and artistic director, the organization grew impressively.

According to the Times, Pasternak was the only full-time worker when she started with Creative Time. Over the past two decades, she managed to increase the organization’s operating budget from $350,000 to $5 million and was joined by another 24 employees, stated the article.

“She just built (Creative Time) up in an incredible way,” Yarlow said.

Coblyn shared a similar opinion, noting that Pasternak really guided the organization from infancy into what it is today.

“That’s more than put her on the map nationally and internationally,” he said.

Coblyn added that regardless of her career success, Pasternak has repeatedly and generously made time to return to UMass, including participating in an art symposium in 2008 and a video for the University Museum of Contemporary Art in 2010. The University provided her with crucial skills and experience, Coblyn said, and Pasternak tries to give back.

In particular, Coblyn and Yarlow both cite the significance of Pasternak’s internship with the Herter Gallery in her development in the art world. Because of her experience with the gallery, the two speculate, Pasternak was able to feel more comfortable in her work and gain important connections.

“At an early age, she was able to rub shoulders with some of the best artists both nationally and internationally that we bring to campus,” Yarlow said. The internship also allowed Pasternak a real behind-the-scenes look at organizing events, according to Yarlow.

“(Working with me at the gallery) kind of removed the mystique that gallery directors are unapproachable,” Coblyn said. “Suddenly, very historic figures were accessible.”

Noting the experience she gained at UMass and through her career, Yarlow said that Pasternak will be “the perfect fit for the Brooklyn Museum.”

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @shelby_ashline.