Sean O’Harrow says farewell to the Figge

From The Quad City Times:
Sean O’Harrow’s goodbye is a unique one.

The executive director of the Figge Art Museum in Davenport will officially leave the post within days to become the director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art. Its collection, however, has been in the Figge since March 2009 after flooding the previous year destroyed the university’s building.

“I still have a stake in the success of this organization and in our community here,” O’Harrow said.

O’Harrow said the university made him the job offer and he wanted to be able to give the Figge three months’ notice before he officially left.

There is no timetable to replace the university museum – “as fast as we can get it,” O’Harrow said – but the 42-year-old director will get to guide its path.

He also wants to see more cooperation between Davenport and Iowa City.

“These two cities along I-80 are very high-profile for the state,” he said. “It’s good that they work together.”

The Hawaiian native, who spent six years as development director of St. Catharine’s College in the University of Cambridge in England before moving to the Figge, is credited with several initiaves, including getting the collection from the corporate offices of Deere & Co. and Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., on display, and working with Western Illinois University to get a museum studies program that includes hands-on work at the Figge.

In an interview shortly before his last day at work and before a farewell dinner with VIPs tonight, O’Harrow talked about his “3.3 years” at the Figge:

Biggest accomplishment

“The museum is a more popular place and it’s … a really good museum now. It was OK when I arrived, but right now, when you walk into the museum, there’s some of the best art in the world. Our education programs have been immensely successful. People see the value of having an art museum now more than when the project started. …

“Bringing the University of Iowa collection here and Knox College and John Deere (as well). These are ways of getting people to understand what an art museum does. In this community, these names are some of the biggest names in our culture.”