Tell me about your 1999 New York University master’s thesis, “Disney and Museums: Simulacra, Education and a Blueprint for Competition.”
That thesis was looking at what museums could learn from places like Disney World or themed entertainments, like Las Vegas, and the idea that people now are not so interested in authenticity anymore. What we’re about is authenticity. We’re the real deal, the real object. We’re trying to provide a cultural experience. How do you exist in a society where people are going to the Paris hotel at Las Vegas and eating omelets served by waiters in berets? How do we relate in that world? What is our place in that world?

And ultimately the argument I made there is that we can’t win by becoming entertainments, by watering down or dumbing down what we do, or attempting to program to the lowest common denominator. What we need to do is provide the strongest experience. We need the best artists, the best art, the strongest identity we can provide, but then make it accessible to people in a way that’s meaningful. I think DeCordova is actually well positioned to do that, because I think we’re strong with families, we’re strong with being known as an unpretentious place for art. But I think that’s come to some degree because we haven’t presented always the most challenging work. And so my goal is to find a way to present really challenging, strong work, but maintain that identity as an unpretentious accessible place.

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