10/03/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/03/2023 14:08
On most days, Jack Rasmussen, CAS/MFA '75, MA '83, PhD '94, can be found surrounded by art. His daily rounds as the American University Museum Director and Curator take him across three floors of rotating exhibitions, winding past paintings, sculptures, and artworks of all media. He knows nearly every inch of the museum by heart.
Rasmussen has led the AU Museum since 2005. An artist by training and repeat Eagle, he remains as passionate about the museum's mission as the day he started. 2023 marks his 18th year at the helm and his first as the inaugural C. Nicholas Keating and Carleen B. Keating Director.
The newly endowed directorship is made possible by a Change Can't Wait campaign gift and furthers the Keating legacy at the AU Museum.
Both devoted art collectors, Nick Keating, SIS/BA '63, MA '64, and Carleen Keating, CAS/BA '64, shared a commitment to the arts at their alma mater. The directorship, named by Carleen in memory of her late husband, comes alongside a donation of the couple's private art collection.
"The AU Museum has long been an artistic home for AU and for DC," says Carleen Keating. "Under Jack Rasmussen's leadership, the museum has charted an ambitious course with clarity of vision and attention to community needs. It is deeply meaningful to me that the Keating Directorship and Collection will continue this important work."
For Rasmussen, the endowed directorship is a testament to the AU Museum's inspiring growth over the past decades. Longtime friends, he and Carleen Keating served together on the planning committee for the Katzen Arts Center during its development in the early 2000s. Rasmussen sees the gift's meaning as twofold-both a commemoration of personal friendship and a sustaining pillar of museum support for years to come.
"The exciting thing for me," Rasmussen says, "is that the [Director] position will be institutionalized. . . . It's wonderful that it's pretty much assured that they're going to have solid leadership here [at the AU Museum] and a strong artistic direction."
He adds, "It's also very satisfying to me because I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Carleen Keating."
The endowed position underscores the AU Museum's cultural significance to the university and the wider DC region.
Overlooking Ward Circle at the top of Embassy Row, the museum forms the northern cornerstone of the Katzen Arts Center and is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. Katzen is the artistic epicenter of AU. Multidisciplinary in design and practice, it houses the university's visual and performing arts programs.
Of Katzen's 130,000 sq feet, the AU Museum boasts an extraordinary 24,000. It is an arrestingly beautiful space. In the morning, natural light illuminates the space through the large glass windows and skylight. At night, the circular framing and ceiling play perfect host to evening concerts.
If these features-natural light and curved walls-seem to challenge conventional rules in art curation, it's not coincidental. Distinction is a pride point for the AU Museum. In a city brimming with museums and galleries, the AU Museum sets itself apart as the region's largest university facility and DC's only academic public-facing museum. A place where art is global, political, and supportive of local artists.
In other words, Rasmussen says, a DC museum that is for DC.
"We're always trying to figure out ways to 'open it up' and counter the [establishment] canon of Washington art," explains Rasmussen. "We're devoted to the Washington community even as we focus on our international neighbors."