A month after four trustees quit the Springfield Museum of Art board to protest the firing of curator Charlotte Gordon, she has a new job.
Gordon has been hired as artistic director of the Southern Ohio Museum in Portsmouth.
It’s a move that also will bring her husband, Mark Chepp, out of semi-retirement to assume the position of executive director at that same museum.
Chepp, director emeritus of the Springfield Museum of Art, served as executive director locally for 15 years beginning in 1991, building the museum’s permanent collection of American art that’s now valued at $6 million.
Their new endeavor in Portsmouth started taking shape the day Gordon’s job was eliminated on May 1 as part of a new operating strategy at the local museum to rely on more contracted personnel. She had served as full-time curator of the local art museum since 2006.
“We knew an opening (in Portsmouth) would be coming for Charlotte’s area. That was one of the first calls we made,” Chepp said. “As it turns out, they were also looking to make a change at the executive director position. They called back and asked, ‘What are you doing?’
“Part of it was networking and knowing people,” he added, “and part of it was just pure dumb luck.”
The idea of working alongside his wife of almost 10 years as co-directors of a museum proved too tempting.
“You can’t pass something like that up,” Chepp, 65, said, “so I didn’t.”
“We are absolutely confident that they have the skills, personality, experience and passion to take the museum to new heights of programming and policy in the 21st century, and we are eager to welcome them into our community,” Asa Jewett, president of the Southern Ohio Museum board, said in a statement.
Chepp, a Milwaukee native who headed efforts to restore the Westcott House and the Hartman Rock Garden during his time in Springfield, most recently had been devoting time to painting and teaching two art classes per semester at Urbana University.
They don’t technically have to start work in Portsmouth until July 1, but decided to start Tuesday.
“We’re rolling up our sleeves and starting early,” Gordon said.
Opened in 1979 in a Beaux Arts-style building that had been a bank headquarters, the Southern Ohio Museum contains space for both visual and performing arts. Its permanent collection boasts the largest single collection of works by noted scene painter Clarence Holbrook Carter, a Portsmouth native, and thousands of prehistoric American Indian objects.
As museum professionals and working artists, they’ve had a long relationship with the museum in Portsmouth. Chepp recently curated a touring exhibit, “Outside in Ohio: A Century of Unexpected Genius,” that was produced by the Southern Ohio Museum.
“It’s a very solid museum,” Gordon, 53, said. “It’s been run in a very solid, consistent way. For a town of 18,000, it’s amazing this facility is here and is so strong. When we were looking at places, this was our first call.”