New Millicent Rogers Museum director shares visions, plans

Caroline Jean Fernald with Miniature

An interview with Caroline Jean Fernald

Originally published in Tempo (Taos News)

New Millicent Rogers Museum director shares visions, plans

The new executive director of the Millicent Rogers Museum, Caroline Jean Fernald, chose a small, cozy room as her office. The room is “in the middle of action”—close to the collections, the visitors, and the gift shop. She will be at the heart of a building that houses over seven thousand objects representing the arts and cultures of the Southwest.

Fernald is no stranger to Taos. For the past two summers she acted as the Eanger Irving Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp Historic Site’s collections management intern and was in charge of cataloguing and conserving the site’s Native American art collection. She was also a presenter in the Virginia and Ernest Leavitt Summer Lecture Series in 2014 and 2015.

“While working for the Couse-Sharp Site, I fell in love with Taos and became very familiar with the community through my involvement with the local music scene,” she said. “I sit in as a singer and fiddler in a variety of acts, and have performed at the Adobe Bar, Eske’s, Black Mesa Winery, the Taos Farmers Market, and several other spots around town.”

Originally from Central Illinois, Fernald came to Taos from Norman, Oklahoma, where she received her Masters’ Degree in Native American Art History and is presently a Ph.D. candidate in Native American Art History.

Full of enthusiasm, she talked about her vision and dreams for the future of the museum.

Q: What plans do you have in terms of new activities and events?

A: I look forward to leading the museum into promising new directions. I will be working hard to engage more with the local community. We will have many special events particularly designed for them. My background is in music so I want to get music in the museum and integrate it into its regular life. I’d also like to work more closely with the local schools and bring the students in. We have a great responsibility: to create a culture of coming to the museums and enjoying them. I started visiting museums when I was very little and it developed into a habit. I am very thankful to my parents for that!

Q: What are your goals for the future of the museum?

A: I want to make the Millicent Rogers Museum into a nationally recognized name like the UNM Museum in Albuquerque or the Denver Art Museum. It has the potential to become a cultural destination, just as these places are. In that sense, having a busy activity calendar will help. I also plan to build a network with other museum directors around the country and to bring in more grant money.

Q: This year is the 60th anniversary of the Millicent Rogers Museum. How do you plan to celebrate it? Any special exhibits?

A: The theme for this year in Taos is “visionaries” and Millicent Rogers was, among many other things, a true visionary. So, together with The Taos Visionaries: Art and Culture Consortium, we will host an exhibition centered on the parallels between her life and work and the museum’s core values. We will explore her collections, her advocacy for the arts, and also her “other life” as an heiress and a fashionista. Millicent was a fascinating woman and letting people know more about different facets of her life will add a more personal feel to the museum.

Q: What do you like best of your new place of work?

A: The art collection is extraordinary, very diverse and representative of the area so I feel privileged to be working with it. I am also impressed with both the staff and the volunteers. The majority of people who work here have been doing it for a long time and they are extremely dedicated. Carmela Quinto, the curator, has been at the museum for twenty-five years. This is only my second day of work but I already feel welcomed and comfortable here.

Q: Any personal message to the people of Taos?

A: I’d like to find out what people think of the museum…what they like of it. I hear them say: “I really love this place.” What do they love? I want to build on that and to make the Millicent Rogers Taos’ museum.

Caroline Jean Fernald at the wearable art