How does a glassblowing dancer from Vermont end up the helm of an art museum in Virginia? The path was far more logical and linear than it may seem for Charlotte Potter Kasic, who was officially named executive director of ODU’s Barry Art Museum early last year.
After earning her undergraduate degree from New York’s Alfred University with a concentration in glassblowing and a minor in dance, Kasic apprenticed with artists from Philadelphia to Santa Fe before starting a touring performance glass group called Cirque de Verre. Before too long, she was accepted into the MFA program at the Rhode Island School of Design where she focused on the performative aspects of the medium through installation and video.
Following an artist’s residency in Australia, she returned to the States to be the founding Programming Director of the Perry Glass Studio at the Chrysler Museum of Art. From that post, she helped found Norfolk’s NEON district, founded the NEON festival and produced the Glass Art Society Conference in 2017. Thereafter she returned to Vermont—a new mom needing the support of her family—to serve as executive director at Yestermorrow Design/Build School, which afforded her experience managing teams that she had not personally assembled. While at Yestermorrow, her team created the Tiny House Festival, which attracted thousands of people to her hometown of Waitsfield with a population under 2,000.
“I have always been enamored with the production of an event, whether it be a happening, a performance, an exhibition, or even a dinner party,” says Kasic. “I love to build a multi-sensory concept: lighting, sound, smell, taste and visual components. Building a team and coming together towards a common goal is exhilarating and gives me a real sense of accomplishment. My experiences with glassblowing teams, creating set designs for my sister’s band, producing festivals, and assembling and organizing ambitious and collaborative teams have all informed my job at the Barry Art Museum. Making contemporary artwork accessible to the public is always at the heart of my professional practice.”
While she never consciously pursued arts administration, Kasic discovered it serendipitously through a single museum studies class in graduate school. “This course pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of the museum world: both illustrious and downright quirky (see the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia!). I learned that as a researcher, you can approach any museum and request access to their archives, curatorial staff and even storage. This new perspective emboldened me to approach museums as a resource, to use them for research, and ultimately to apply for positions within them.”
Kasic considers her work with the Perry Glass Studio a pivotal moment of “investment, joy and collaboration.” There she was able to build the mission, programs, budget and a multilayered team with the support of the Chrysler Museum. Perhaps the most exciting part was to play matchmaker and pair visual, culinary and musical artists together for unusual projects, residencies and performances. “I would never have left if I hadn’t started a family,” she reflects.
The opportunity to be involved with the Barry Art Museum, which opened in 2018, was definitely a “right place at the right time” scenario, as her husband’s work brought the young family back to Coastal Virginia. When the manager of education and engagement post came open and she was hired, she felt reinvigorated by the opportunity to learn from then executive director Jutta Page. The pandemic and Page’s retirement created an opening for interim director and then executive director—into which Kasic “jumped unabashedly.” She feels honored to continue Page’s work, “nurturing the remarkable institution she built.”
With two young children, Kasic’s own artistic process has been put on hold. However, she is philosophical: “Channeling my creative impulse into an institution is a delightful evolution…being on a college campus gives me access to scientists, historians, psychologists, poet laureates and engineers! I miss the catharsis of making my own work, but my current focus allows me to be truly immersed in parenting and growing the Barry Art Museum.”
The interdisciplinary conversations and academic connections excite her as she looks for overlapping areas. What do an artist and an engineer have in common? What motivates them? How can they learn from one another? What can we learn from their collaboration?
“Time will be the true judge of who is the right person to lead our institution,” says Kasic modestly, “but I am honored to help foster the Barry Art Museum to the next stage of its evolution.”