The Mint Museum's new CEO says he wants to help raise Charlotte's profile on the national arts scene. Todd Herman was introduced at a breakfast for supporters and community members Wednesday at the Mint Museum Uptown, where he talked about his decision to accept the job.
"I just kept looking at what the potential is here, and how all of us can move the Mint forward and make Charlotte a centerpiece for arts and culture in the country," Herman said. "And that's what we're going to do. And it will take all of us to do it, and the collaborations with all of our arts partners."
Herman also called for better collaboration between Charlotte arts organizations, so they see one another as partners, not competitors.
Herman started work Aug. 20. He came to the Mint from the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, where he had been CEO since 2011. He also previously was a curator at the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina, and also worked at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
In Arkansas, he oversaw an annual budget of more than $6 million and a full-time staff of 50. The Mint has said Herman led a $16 million fundraising campaign in Arkansas to build its endowment and pay off debt. The Mint has a budget of $10.1 million, 54 full-time employees and 1,200 volunteers.
THE ROLE OF THE MINT AND MUSEUMS
Herman said he has been meeting with Mint supporters, local leaders and the heads of other arts organizations to get to know the Charlotte arts scene in Charlotte, and how people perceive the Mint.
"What the Mint means in the community, what the staff are thinking, where they see the Mint going, where they see issues that might need to be addressed. Where our arts partners see the Mint within larger Charlotte," he said. "Big issues, like the arts in Charlotte, but also how the Mint can play a role in growing the arts in Charlotte."
He also talked about the role of museums.
"Museums — to my mind — are critical in any community because they offer a perspective on the world that you can't get anywhere else," he said. "And if you think about what the creative sector means, and what's contained within the creative sector — great literature, great architecture, great music, dance, art. These are the things that are predominantly what's left behind by great civilizations,"
He compared artists to professional basketball or football players. And the museum, he said, "is our stadium. We are celebrating those people who have talent that is beyond what we can do."
INSPIRED BY ART
Art was not Herman's first choice. As an undergraduate at James Madison University in Virginia, he studied both microbiology and art history. He said his life changed when he took his first art history class.
“What did I know about art and museums? I had not been to one until I got to college," Herman said. "And then I took an art history class, the lights went down, those images came up and it was one after another of ‘wow, wow, wow.’ Our human race created these things, and that is what is so wonderful about looking at art.”
The 82-year-old Mint Museum has two locations — its original home on Randolph Road, and the Mint Museum Uptown, which opened in 2010. Herman's first big public event will be on Sept. 14, at a party to celebrate the recent reopening of the uptown museum after renovations this summer. The museum also will unveil a new public artwork on the staircase leading to its second level main entrance.