BFA in Visual Art Studies, 1994
As Executive Director of the Crow Collection of Asian Art, Amy leads the preeminent museum in the southern United States dedicated to the works of China, Japan, India, and Southwest Asia. On staff since the Crow Collection’s inception in 1998, her footprint can be found throughout the museum’s offerings. Emphasizing collaboration and collective learning , she has produced award-winning education programs at the Crow Collection. She also successfully recruited acclaimed Asian art scholar, author, and former Co-Director and Senior Curator of the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, Dr. Caron Smith, to serve as curator of the Crow Collection. She branded and launched the Crow Collection as the first "wellness museum" in the United States through a collaboration with best-selling author, speaker, and integrative medicine thought-leader Dr. Andrew Weil. Under her leadership, the Crow Collection implemented two wildly success monthly community-focused programs: "AdventureAsia: Family Days at the Crow" and "Crow Collection After Dark," drawing over 30,000 people last year to learn about the arts and cultures of Asia.
Why did you choose the Visual Art Studies major?
I enrolled as a freshman in the Art History division. At the end of my first year, my dad asked me that famous question, "So, what are you going to do when you graduate?" Teaching was always natural to me, and I liked the opportunity to add studio classes to my coursework and receive a certificate for teaching. The VAS program satisfied all passions, including my dad's.
What drew most of your attention as an undergrad?
Truly, I would say Studio Art. I found tremendous inspiration in the work of my professor, the late Thana Lauhakaikul. He encouraged me to explore extremely complicated ideas in the realm of environmental installations and became a very important mentor in my work and in my thinking. He spent hours outside of course time helping me figure out how to float old windows on water and how to make eggshells glow with light. I also enjoyed sculptural ceramics with Janet Kastner and printmaking with Tom Drucker. The Art Building was my wonderland of new ideas, processes, and I loved every moment.
What did you take away most from the department?
Confidence. The professors worked hard to build our courage and to embolden us with the skills and abilities to push new ideas forward. Expectations were high and I am grateful for their standard of intellectual rigor. I learned that the first ideas are not the best and this became an important practice for my career.
What else were you involved in during your time at UT?
The Fine Arts Council was an integral part in my leadership development. It led to incredible experience like planning the 40 Acres Fest and serving on the Cabinet of College Councils. It strengthened my connections to the university at large and taught me things about the campus outside of the Art Building. I also had the rich experience of speaking at the College of Fine Arts graduation in 1994.
What was your plan after graduation?
When I graduated in 1994, I was bound and determined to go straight to graduate school in the field of art therapy. In early May, I was in Washington D.C. interviewing at George Washington University for their renowned program. Back in Dallas, Dr. Kenneth Thomas from Armstrong Elementary phoned my home and spoke with my dad. My name had been recommended to him for a teaching position at Armstrong, and he was calling to set up an interview. My dad was thrilled. I flew back to Dallas, met Dr. Thomas and fell in love with Armstrong Elementary. Art therapy could wait. I taught art in the district for three years. Little known to me was the fact that I was building important relationships with the philanthropic community in Dallas. This was an important foundation for my work at the Crow Collection.
Tell us more about directing a museum.
With my experience in education, I liken it to being the principal of a school. I work with a great team of leaders and aspire to empower them to lead their departments, bolstered with good training and current trends in museum strategy. I also relish the opportunity to work with mentors of several different disciplines. As an educationally minded director, I shape the programmatic course for our exhibitions, school, family and adult offerings. I also work closely with our board president, Trammell S. Crow, to identify the best new projects and ideas for our growing museum. Trammell is passionate about the legacy and the future of this museum. He is also very entrepreneurial, and I have enjoyed learning how to take risks and push the big ideas. As a small institution, we are able to be more nimble and open to extraordinary opportunities.
What are some memorable experiences as Executive Director?
Among my favorites are giving tours for Margaret Thatcher, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Robert Duvall, and meeting Yo Yo Ma. However, paramount to being with those amazing leaders in world politics, film and music is the experience of touring the museum with young people. My favorite moments are with young people seeing Asia art for the first time. I love their curiosity and especially their wonder.
What connections do you have to The University of Texas at Austin?
I am very supportive of the great work happening at the Visual Arts Center and its Director, Jade Walker. I also follow the Blanton Museum of Art and loved the recent exhibition, Through the Eyes of Texas: Masterworks from Alumni Collections, curated by Annette DiMeo Carlozzi. Three members of the Crow family loaned works from their collections for the exhibition, and I was so proud to represent the family and the museum at the opening reception. It was a career highlight to be back on campus and to be recognized for our small part in that beautiful project.
What keeps you inspired?
Descartes said, "Wonder is the first of all passions." I try to keep this inspiration close to my heart and my work. Wonder is found in many places. I see it every day in the art museum, and I seek it every day in my morning walks, my travel and in my children. Wonder happens when we pause, and I believe museums give us a place to pause. I think art can be a conduit to wellness, both in body and mind. The potential of the museum as a center for wellness is one of my greatest passions and we have established the Crow Collection as the first wellness museum in the United States. Innovation inspires me as well as the power of art to change lives.
Do you have any advice for current students?