Colby Museum curator moves to Portland Museum of Art

Colby Museum Curator of Academic Programs Shalini Le Gall will be moving to the Portland Museum of Art (PMA). Her role will focus on European art collections as well as academic programs. Her official title is  a curator of European Art and Director of Academic Engagement. 

Le Gall’s role as a curator will continue as she will work on developing installations, exhibitions, and collections in the interest of European art. According to Le Gall, the fundamental duty of her job is that “curators in museums are really interested in selecting objects or works of art that then prompt conversation and thinking in a space.” 

At the College, Le Gall helped inspire these conversations among faculty and students with installations in teaching galleries, exhibiting objects related to a reading or topic. 

“These works of art can prompt or foster conversation within a class,” Le Gall said, referencing lessons centered around works of art in the museum, such as the representation of identity in art or environmental classes studying landscapes. 

Le Gall’s experience at Colby will likely help with the academic side of her new job. At the PMA, she will continue to work with installations that prompt learning and discussion, but one change will be a new approach to academic engagement from the perspective of a civic museum. 

At the public museum, Le Gall explained she will be part of a team in a professional setting that is already working on a higher education strategic initiative to involve students. As the main contact between colleges and the PMA, Le Gall will continue to inspire and engage in conversations regarding the museum and the art world in the context of the vibrant Portland art scene. 

Le Gall spent five years working at the College as a curator and teacher. She said it is difficult to leave a higher education institution, especially in a small community where often, “You don’t realize you’re learning when you’re learning.”  

Le Gall described learning every day through conversations stay with her, and with objects in museum. 

“When I walk by an object, I think about it in relation to specific conversations I’ve had with students. I don’t know if you have that experience at every academic museum of such powerful conversations with students,” Le Galle said. 

Even after her last day at the College on Jan 10, 2020, Le Gall expects to stay connected to the college through the academic nature of her new role at the PMA. 

“Maine is such a village, and we already have a great working relationship with the PMA,” Le Gall said, predicting additional opportunities to collaborate. “That’s one of the wonderful things about being associated with the arts community in Maine. We work collaboratively and promote each other’s work.”

The current exhibition “River Works: Whistler and the Industrial Thames” is part of Le Gall’s work in curating installations in the Colby Museum. Her new position will be a great opportunity to practice and refine her skills as she returns to the study and display of European art, and looks forward to “the prospect of imagining an academic engagement mission from a civic perspective.” 

As she moves on to Portland, Le Gall said, “with movement comes the opportunity to learn more things and contextualize learning.”