Art director brings new image to Tuska Center

By Erin Melwing

The new director of the Tuska Center for Contemporary Art said students should expect more interesting and exciting exhibits this year from the on- campus venue.

Kate Sprengnether, who took over as director in early September, is an artist with a master of fine arts degree in ceramics from Syracuse University. Her job responsibilities for the part-time position include overseeing and planning exhibits, contacting artists, developing ideas, hosting events and installing artwork.

“I was interested in the position because of the opportunity that it afforded me to focus on bringing contemporary art to the university audience,” Sprengnether said.

For the last three years, Sprengnether served as the visual arts specialist for the Lexington Art League. Sprengnether is well connected with the different artists living and working in our community, said Allison Kaiser, executive director of the Lexington Art League.

Sprengnether is the former education director at the Headley-Whitney museum and an independent curator. Her experience will be valuable to the department, said Benjamin Withers, chair of the UK Department of Art.

“I think Kate will use her knowledge of art to attract a higher caliber of shows and at the same time to help us bring in new audiences,” Withers said.

The Tuska Center for Contemporary Art was created in the mid-1990s and the Center is dedicated to introducing contemporary art to both the student and Lexington communities Withers said.

Since 2005 Anna Brzyski, an assistant professor of art history at UK, served as director of the Tuska Center. Before Brzyski, there was not a lot of direction or continuity in the program, Withers said, and the position was held by a series of one-year appointments. However, Brzyski’s three-year term ended this year.

Withers said he hopes that the job of director will someday evolve into a full-time position because of an increasing interest in provocative, cutting-edge contemporary art. Sprengnether said one thing she can contribute is her full attention to the center.

“In recent years, the past director of the Tuska Center was one of the art history professors. So, as such, her attention was kind of divided,” Sprengnether said. “I have the highest respect for her, but because I’m not part of the department, I can offer something new. (The Tuska Center) is my primary focus. I’m not teaching on the side or anything.”

Sprengnether said her goals for the center include maintaining the high quality of shows, bringing in more exciting and interesting exhibits and raising the visibility of the gallery throughout the region.

“Kate will work very hard to do the absolute best thing that she can do for the gallery, sometimes at the sacrifice of herself and her own personal time,” Kaiser said. “She’ll work very hard to realize the mission of the gallery for the university.”

As for now, Sprengnether said she is focusing on getting organized and settling into the job before planning the exhibit schedule for the 2009-10 season.