By Abrian De Luna
Bartholomew Bland, the new director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, plans to make it more accessible to the Lehman and Bronx communities by keeping it open in the summer---a first since its founding in 1984--- and by creating new events such as the Bronx Borough Arts Festival. Bland took over the position from Susan Hoeltzel in May of 2016, and says he really loves the gallery’s mission of mixing new, aspiring artists with established ones and everyone in between.
Bland was attracted to Lehman, he said, because “I had admired a lot of the work that [Hoeltzel] had done. She had done some great shows here and I like Lehman very much, I think it’s a beautiful campus.” He also praised the Fine Arts building where the gallery is located as a “very striking space.”
Bland’s love of art started when he was eight years old and visited the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida. Bland likens entering the Flagler to “stepping into another world... back into time and history. It was this beautiful sort of palace and I really loved the aesthetics of that. It was so different from everything that was this modern suburbia in South Florida and so I used to go there all the time and I think that got me started being more interested in art, architecture and the decorative arts.” Bland kept visiting the Flagler Museum throughout his teenage years, saying the experience and memories gave him “such an awareness of how the arts can really transform the lives of others, particularly at a young age.”
Bland has a B.A. from Florida Atlantic University and graduated from the Getty Leadership Institute at the Claremont Graduate University in 2011. He also holds two master’s degrees: one in arts and U.S. history from Hunter College and one in museum studies from George Washington University. Prior to coming to Lehman, Bland became an assistant curator of the Flagler Museum in 1993 and since then he has curated exhibitions at the Staten Island Museum and the Hudson Museum, even serving as a director in both of them. Bland also wrote exhibition books and catalogs, many in collaboration with Fordham University Press.
Mary Ann Siano, grants associate of the Lehman College Art Gallery and a member of the search committee for the position of its executive director, recalled that Bland “always came out on top” when compared to the others for his “amazing” knowledge of contemporary art. “Meeting Bart in person solidi ed my feelings about choosing him for the position,” she explained. “I have been working with Bart for the past year---a year filled with camaraderie as we work together---and I look forward to working with him on new and exciting projects for the Art Gallery.”
Bland says balancing the needs of the college with the professors using the space for their classes and the community outside of it can be “tricky,” as he wants to get the general public more involved. However, Bland is drawn by the chance to work with the “incredible” team at the Lehman College Art Gallery. “Being the director of this gallery is a wonderful opportunity to bring together the college community, people in the Bronx, and gives me a chance to work directly with emerging artists, which is a very exciting thing.”