The university announced in October that Joseph Antenucci Becherer has been appointed the new director of the Snite Museum of Art. Becherer is the founding director and curator of the sculpture program at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also taught courses in art history at Aquinas College for 20 years. In Becherer’s new role, he will lead a staff of 16 at the Snite and will play a major role in designing the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art at Notre Dame.
As the new director of the Snite Museum, what do you see as the direction the museum will take in the next few years?
Right now, the most important thing for me to do is to really get to know my staff and to come to understand the collection. It’s what I’m calling my “immediate family phase”; I want to understand who and what the Snite is right now. On the other hand, and simultaneously, we are very active and engaged in the first steps forward towards the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art.
Before accepting your new role as director of the Snite, you were the vice president and chief curator of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. How did you become interested in sculpture?
I was always interested in sculpture, and initially I became interested in sculpture because of a seminar that I took on the Renaissance sculptor Donatello. I’ve always found sculpture very challenging because it is an object in space. It has volume, it has mass, and there are all sorts of considerations that are unique to three-dimensional objects. I was always intrigued by sculptures and their use of space, but also by sculptures and their role as problem solvers … In terms of my commitment to modern and contemporary sculpture, that certainly was a force in my most current position as vice president and chief curator of Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park up in Grand Rapids.
You’ve worked at another Catholic college, Aquinas College. What do you see as the role of the arts in Catholic education?
I’ve taught in a Catholic college for the last 20 years, and I was born and raised Catholic. Personally and professionally, I’ve realized just how significant the visual arts are. You go back to the early Christian time period and right up to the present day, and you can see very clearly that painting, sculpture, manuscripts, architecture and devotional objects are absolutely integral to the 2,000-plus-year history [of the Church]. It’s one of the richest art histories within the whole of art history. I’ve always been very much drawn to that. However, realizing that there are other significant and important traditions as well leads me to appreciate just how important it is that we as human beings have opportunities to see, to interact with and to be thinking about those kinds of objects in the world around us. I’ve always been of the opinion that human beings have a basic need to express and share, and oftentimes it comes out in the visual arts and everyone else is a beneficiary.