Susan Barnett has been named curator of the Yellowstone Art Museum.
From Erie, Pennsylvania, Barnett has Montana roots, relocating to Missoula in the late 1970s, and then Bozeman where she obtained a degree in fine art/printmaking from Montana State University. She spent 25 years working in the state, first as the director and curator of Anaconda’s Copper Village Museum and Art Center, and also founded and managed a gallery in Butte for 14 years before moving to Wisconsin for the executive director position with Cedarburg Cultural Center.
In 2017, Barnett became the curator of the Erie Art Museum, caring for a collection of 8,000 objects. Transitioning to the YAM, Barnett will oversee nearly 10,000 objects in the museum’s permanent collection, the largest in the region. The YAM began collecting art and archival pieces after the museum’s founding in 1964, emphasizing contemporary art from the northern Rocky Mountain and northern Plains regions.
Barnett told The Gazette she believes art is important as a historical document, as well as a reflection of a community, and the YAM’s mission to exhibit, interpret, collect, and preserve art while also providing enrichment, education, inspiration, and enjoyment for all resonates with her appreciation of art.
“Art allows you to almost get into the mind of someone who lived before, or who is part of a different culture,” she said. “But then, I also think arts are a great forum to have difficult conversations and build empathy and understanding in the contemporary world.”
Barnett earned an MA in art history and a certificate in Museum Studies from UW-Milwaukee. Her research areas include contemporary art, studio craft, American art and history, and non-Western art. She has artistic hobbies as a cellist performing in symphonies, singing with choral groups, and also enjoys photography.
"I have too many interests," Barnett laughed. Yet, she feels that so many different creative outlets inform what she does as a curator.
Barnett will be introduced to the YAM team during Art Auction 51, which includes an artists’ reception on March 8 and the main event on March 9. She will oversee the curatorial team that includes Lisa Ranallo, museum registrar, and Amanda Daniel, associate curator, as well as curatorial volunteers.