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Inside the McNay: My Introduction to the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts

It was mid-morning during my third week as the new Communications and Marketing Assistant at the McNay. My mind was already woozy from that feeling of gathering too much information all too quickly in pursuit of becoming familiar with a new institution when Curator Jody Blake called me into her office for an impromptu meeting. We would discuss an upcoming project with TPR Classical producer, James Baker, on the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts. 

Thinking it best that I first visually grasp the scope of this collection, Jody suggested I meet with Timothy Retzloff, Tobin Fund Intern in Theatre Arts, to view the open storage, and so we did. My eyes scanned rows and rows of visible art storage trying to make sense of what was what. Clearly I had some homework to do.

The following week we had our first visit with James Baker, who warmly interviewed former Curator of the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, Linda Hardberger. In that interview, she perfectly sums up the astonishing collection as “a visual history of scene design from the Renaissance to the present.” In a separate interview, Jody added that it is a continuously growing collection and described it as spanning “from around 1500 to yesterday.”

Do you now get the picture? The dizzying feeling of seeing such an impressive collection for the first time? Hearing shared stories from two amazing curators? The excitement and reality setting in that I am now a part of this living, breathing institution of art called the McNay? …I digress.

As the weeks went by I was privileged to have my hand in interviews between James and William Chiego (McNay Art Museum Director), David Amram (American Composer) and many other notable persons actively working in the theatre and musical arts. The excitement brewed thicker and thicker each week as a new installment aired on KPAC, wherein James perfectly and brilliantly paired pieces from the renowned collection with musical comparisons.

 It was both a pleasure and a fantastic learning experience to work so closely with a curatorial team and radio producer, and to see the two worlds collide was beyond gratifying. Keeping the lines of future collaboration wide open!

To learn more about James and his project, visit  the TPR website.

Before you go!

Be sure to stop in to see the current exhibition, All the Rage in Paris: Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, which displays the brilliance of the collection and the sharp curating eye of Jody Blake.