Executive Director Andrea Grover takes Guild Hall's rich history to move it forward.
Guild Hall Executive Director Andrea Grover assumed her post in September, after an almost six-year stint at the Parrish Museum, and she is already making her mark on the 86-year-old institution. Her mandate includes celebrating the past that has made Guild Hall so significant, as well as updating it with new ideas and programs to further integrate it into the present day.
“Guild Hall has an incredible founding mission and was created as a gathering place to encourage a finer type of citizenship through the arts,” Grover explains. “Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller presented on our stage and used it as a testing ground before their plays moved to Broadway. Jackson Pollock had his artwork on the walls here in 1949. Guild Hall was one of the first institutions to show photographers as fine art in the 1930s, and it was one of the first multidisciplinary institutions in the country. It was unusual in the 1930s to have a museum and theater under one roof, and yet Guild Hall did.”
After successfully transitioning the Parrish Museum into the 21st century, introducing acclaimed programs such as PechaKucha lectures and the Parrish Road Show, Grover was the smart choice to take the helm at Guild Hall. She arrived with four edicts for her staff that she calls “the drumbeat of the institution for 2017.” They are: let artists lead the way; make space for the next generation; diversity every day; and collaborate to thrive. In practical terms, that means revitalizing the Academy of Arts program, which has been in existence since 1985 and is currently helmed by Eric Fischl. Grover is leaning on this group of creative professionals to advise her team on theater and exhibitions, to serve as mentors to the Artists in Residence Program, and to teach workshops. Grover has also created a teen arts council to help grow tomorrow’s artistic community.
Diversity that avoids tokenism is an important part of the mission. “Museums and cultural institutions are in the habit of celebrating diversity a few times a year,” Grover explains, “but it shouldn’t be relegated to one day a week or one month. It should be every day, year round.” And as for collaboration, she is sharing resources and marketing with other cultural centers on the East End of Long Island and planning a festival next winter.
“Art is always the center of every activity that I am involved in,” says Grover, “and I feel that artists are life’s greatest product testers. Putting them at the center of what we do is the secret to innovating and being ahead of the curve.”