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FRONT AND CENTER: Barbara Satterfield

Longtime Baum Gallery manager retires

By Caroline Zilk

This article was published May 22, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.

— Barbara Satterfield didn’t shed a tearful goodbye when she walked out of the Baum Gallery for the last time on Monday.

Although she has retired as director of the Baum Gallery of Fine Art at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway after 10 years, she has told her replacement that she’s happy to help if anything comes up.

Satterfield grew up in Conway and earned a degree in theater arts at Hendrix College in 1973. It wasn’t until later in life that she decided to pursue advanced degrees in art and museum studies at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

“I got to intern at the Smithsonian Museums, which was wonderful,” Satterfield said. “They had a great program.”

Satterfield went back to school knowing that someday she would love to teach and work with art objects. She never thought she would have a chance to work back home in Conway, but members of the faculty contacted her when they knew the position would be available.

“They knew I was in D.C. and had finished my program,” Satterfield said. “I said I would love to apply, but I never thought it would be possible for me to come back here. It was serendipitous. They say you can’t come home again, but you can.”

Satterfield moved back to Conway and went to work at the Baum Gallery, where department chairman Jeff Young said she has done a wonderful job.

“Barbara is a delight to work with,” Young said. “Her shows were always very thoughtful. She took a lot of care with how things were arranged. People were drawn in by one work and would then turn to another and just be delighted.”

Satterfield said she thinks she produced about 100 shows during her 10 years as director of the gallery.

Young said Satterfield never hesitated to teach an extra class or take on more work with students during the semester.

“I really enjoyed working with my museum-studies classes,” Satterfield said.

“I had several work-study students come to work with me in the gallery to learn more about museum work.”

Opening and unpacking work for exhibits was one of Satterfield’s favorite parts of her job.

“The museum-studies students would help me install the shows,” she said. “It was fun to watch them figure out how the exhibition is arranged and why it’s arranged the way it is.”

While Satterfield may miss the Christmas-like feeling of unpacking a new exhibit, she said she will still wake up every morning expecting something wonderful.

Instead of going to work each morning at UCA, she will go to work in her ceramics studio at home.

“I’ve always done oversized, ritual sculptures, so I’ll be working on that,” she said.

“I’ve really missed the immersive experience of being able to spend uninterrupted time in my studio.”

The former director described the relationship between the Baum Gallery and the UCA art department as highly cooperative.

“They were very involved in helping me plan exhibits and shows,” Satterfield said.

“I’ve learned that if one person is making a lot of the decisions, then a lot of good decisions don’t get made. Listening to a lot of different people with a lot of different opinions has been very helpful and can be a very good thing.”

Satterfield also plans to do a bit of consulting for museums and other organizations on the side.

“When I went back to school at 45, my friends told me I would be 50 before I got a job,” Satterfield said.

“I said, ‘Well, I’ll be 50 anyway.’ Now, I’m going to pursue my art work, and my friends say, ‘But you’re 60!’ I say, ‘I’m going to be 60 anyway.’”

However, she admits that starting something new always feels a bit like jumping off a cliff.

“After you do it a few times, you get used to it, though,” she said.

Satterfield is also looking forward to spending more time with her family in the Conway area and traveling with her husband.

She said she plans to do some volunteer work but will have to see how it fits into her already busy schedule.

“I serve on the Committee of 100,” Satterfield said. “That is a group of women who support the Ozark Folk Center.”

She has committed to working on several exhibits with the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce and is an active member of First United Methodist Church in Conway.

“I just have to see what happens,” she said of her new ventures. “I would hate to think that I never really gave it a shot, because I think that is really important.”

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