Meet Karen Steele
Curator, Reynolds Art Collection
Where did you grow up? If not Richmond, how long have you lived here, and what brought you here?
I grew up in Fairmont, West Virginia, where I attended Fairmont State University. I came to Richmond in 1968 for that most traditional of reasons: I married a man who was living here.
How long have you worked for Reynolds? What did you do for work before you came here?
When John Fugate, who was program chair for art, called and asked me to interview for an adjunct teaching position at Reynolds in 1991, I was the Administrator-Curator of Wilton House Museum. I remember talking with him on an extension in the Museum’s basement kitchen.
You are the Curator of the Reynolds Art Collection. Please tell us about your job.
My job includes identifying potential art donors, negotiating gifts, documenting all art in a catalog program, hanging art on all three campuses, working with artists and art groups who exhibit in the Conference Center Gallery to assure high quality shows, coordinating the Student Art Show. Some days, it’s just what comes along. Recently I used a hex wrench to attach sleeves to the rods we use in the Walker Hanging System. I teach art history every semester.
Reynolds has received a number of significant donations to the art collection in the past year. What is the most important thing for faculty and staff to know about this asset?
These works are an important part of the educational mission of the college. Not only does colorful art break down the institution feel of college buildings, it can be a critical part of teaching in many disciplines. Art teaches problem solving, or as one artist put it, problem creating. It’s a classic situation where students are forced to explore new ideas and approaches to make a successful work. Students learn the kind of flexibility in thinking that allows them to find new solutions to old problems in the workplace.
This is an exciting time of year for you. The Annual Student Art Show is on exhibit now in the Workforce Conference Center Gallery and the Show Awards Reception will be held on Thursday, April 26? What will happen at the Awards Reception?
We will honor this year’s major donor: Chuck Scalin, who gave the college 47 of his art works. He chose 47 to represent each year of his 47 year-long career. He and his wife Mim Golub judged the show. They will announce the Reynolds Prize (best in show) and prizes for painting and drawing. The winning students will receive a check. John Negri will provide music. The food will be excellent.
When you aren’t here at Reynolds working with art, what do you like to do for fun?
Turns out I’m a bit of an art and design nerd. I sew, read, knit and design needlework. I like to travel. I look for good museums, classical music concerts, and excellent coffee in a new city.
What is your favorite thing to do in Richmond?
I like Carytown. There are fun shops and galleries with lots of interesting people to watch. I especially like the flower vendors. They bring such color to the city.
If you won the Mega Millions jackpot what would you do first?
After all of the practical stuff, I’d book a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon.