As soon as she applied, Elizabeth Dunbar was pretty much a lock for DiverseWorks ArtSpace's executive director position.
"We did a national search, and we had 25 really really strong candidates," said DiverseWorks's public relations and marketing manager, Shawna Forney. "We were immediately interested because of her visual arts background," which included arts administration work for Kansas City's Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
"The job spoke to me in a lot of different ways, especially with DiverseWorks's strong history with intersecting visual and performance art," Dunbar told Art Attack by phone during her first hour on the job.
A Southlake native, Dunbar is taking over for interim executive director William Betts. She most recently worked at Arthouse, where she was the associate director and chief curator.
The Austin venue, citing a budget shortfall, eliminated her position in August. The decision was met with controversy: The Austin American-Statesman reported that after Dunbar was fired, a decade-long Arthouse staff member quit in protest and exhibiting artists came out of the woodwork to complain about what they said was the sloppy handling of their works by other staff members, not Dunbar.
Controversy aside, Dunbar explained that her last project at the experimental art space was working with London-based artist Graham Hudson as he created an Astoria Theatre replication that featured hundreds of Austin-based bands enhancing the site-specific installation via live concerts.
Syncing the visual and performative art worlds is a passion of Dunbar's and something she'd like to make happen with more frequency at DiverseWorks. With a theater space that the Houston Press gave Best of Houston® kudos to, she already has some top-notch resources.
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"One of my major goals is to bring the visual and performing arts programming together in a more organized fashion and to really create a nexus between the two," she said.
Dunbar explained that she's recognized more collaboration between visual and performance artists in the last five years.
"I think it's because of the Internet and also there's been more and more curators recognizing performance art," said Dunbar, who points to the crossover works that were featured in the 2010 Whitney Biennial as an example.
"Houston is a major art city," she said, "so I want to give artists more opportunities for experimentation and risk-taking."