Abigail Baer, the new director of the Lancaster Museum of Art and the Demuth Museum, knew Lancaster County had a healthy art scene, but she wasn’t prepared for just how healthy.
“The art scene is so robust,” she says. “I’m still taking it all in.”
The Lancaster Museum of Art, has been located at 135 N. Lime St. since 1979 and features a large collection of the work of local artists.
Today is the last day to see a portion of that collection in “New Perspective: Selections from the Permanent Collection.”
The Demuth Museum, at 120 E. King St., is the actual home and studio of artist Charles Demuth, where he did the vast majority of his painting.
The museum has the largest collections of Demuth’s work in the world.
Baer, who came aboard in late August, has been getting to know Lancaster, and she’s impressed.
She is finding more than a robust art scene.
“Look at the landscape, the architecture, the richness of the buildings, it’s something you want to be part of,” Baer says.
Baer comes from the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, where she was the development coordinator for the past seven years.
Her strong points are on the business side of things.
She holds a Master of Arts in arts administration from Goucher College and a Bachelor of Arts in public relations with a minor in art history from York College.
Baer, 33, lives in York with her husband of 10 years, Jay, and their 1-year-old, Calvin.
She loves gardening and cooking.
“I consider my creativity not in visionary art, but in the culinary world,” she says.
She didn’t intend to get a minor in art history, but a high school teacher opened her eyes by taking her class to museums on a regular basis.
“I really loved going to those museums,” she says. “So I decided to minor in art history.”
In graduate school, she studied Charles Demuth and came to the Demuth Museum to do research.
“This was before the merger (in 2014),” she explains. “But I was not familiar with the Lancaster Museum of Art or the history of the artists here.”
In the first several weeks in her new position, Baer says she took in a lot of meetings and luncheons, toured the city and met artists. She’s getting to know the 19 board members who serve both Demuth and Lancaster Museum of Art.
“ I made an Excel Express sheet and started filling in names.” she says. “I’ve gotten a warm, wonderful welcome from everybody. There’s great energy here.”
At the moment, Baer is not looking for radical chances at either museum.
“We are going to have the same things (we’ve had in the past). There’s an invitational we do at Demuth in February. In March and April, there’s the Scholastic and Young Arts exhibits at both locations.” The summer brings the Community Art Show. And soon there is Trees Galore at Lancaster Museum of Art.
The venerable Trees Galore, which opens Nov. 23, is a fundraiser for the museums. Local artists create work, most of it themed around the holidays, which is sold at auction.
This year, though, there is another exhibit upstairs.
To mark the 200th anniversary of the song “Silent Night,” members of Echo Valley Art Group were asked to create art around the theme of silent night. A number of other artists were invited to participate as well.
In early fall, the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society will be featured in a juried exhibit at Lancaster Museum of Art.
“We aren’t making crazy changes to anything, but we will be looking at a strategic plan,” Baer says. “We want to be more accessible, look at marketing and see how we are being perceived.”
Right now, changes are of the less glamorous sort. They are looking for a new phone system and building a new and better website.
One of the bigger challenges is bringing the two museums together and clarifying the merger.
“People are still confused, and some people don’t even know we merged,” Baer says.
“There is a lot here (at the Demuth Museum)” she says. “We’ve got to do some strategic planning. For example, how do we incorporate the tobacco shop? Or the snuff mill? It needs some help. How do we tell the family history? There is a fascinating history here and I really want to figure out how to tell it.”
She is working to develop exhibitions that will tie the two museums together.
Unlike the previous executive director, Anne Lampe, Baer will not be curating shows.
“We’ll either hire a curator or work with guest curators,” she says.
The Lancaster Museum of Art and the Demuth Museum are the foundation of the robust art scene that Baer talked about, and she both to become more a part of First Friday and keep active in the Lancaster art scene.
The key for her?
“Transparency. Be honest with who you are and what you are doing.”