A few weeks ago I met Juniper Manley for lunch at Manzanita Market.
She had recently been appointed by the Harwood Museum of Art as its new Director, but was still transitioning from her gig as Associate Director at the Taos Land Trust. Needless to say, her plate was full and I was grateful for the time she made to talk to me.
Manley served as Director of Development at the Harwood from 2008-2016, before taking on her subsequent role at the Taos Land Trust, where she’s been in the forefront of the development of the eco-friendly, Rio Fernando Park.
“I’ve loved my time with the Land Trust,” she told me, “but when this position (at the Harwood), opened up, it was too compelling not to go for.”
“I believe I was the final applicant.” She smiled. “And then it came down to four of us, and a three day process with museum Donors, members of the Board and Staff, followed by a Public Presentation.”
She told me she was a bit nervous, but she needn’t have worried, As she herself notes, with her past experience at the museum, along with her background in (for the Arts), nonprofits, and the fact that she grew up here in Northern New Mexico, makes her a perfect fit for the position.
“I don’t officially start at the Harwood until May 15,” she said. “But I’ve already started meeting with some staff to facilitate this transition phase,” she said, “while finishing up my projects at the Land Trust.”
“Tom Tkach, (executive director of UNM Popejoy Hall) has stepped in during the interim,” Juniper explained, “and he has really done so much to make this transition as smooth as possible.”
“I can’t express how grateful I am to him for all he has already done to set new protocols in place at the Harwood.”
Juniper Manley grew up in Peñasco and went to Taos High School. She has fond memories of spending time at the Harwood when it was still a library. We figured she was probably in the children’s library some afternoons during the time I lived above it, in one of the former apartments (now offices), with my young family.
“It feels like home to me.” She said.
“Me too!” I quipped.(After all, my daughter, Genevieve was born there!) We laughed.
Juniper, who is vivacious, gorgeous and extremely articulate, holds a Master’s degree in Arts Management from the Carnegie Mellon Heinz School of Public Policy and Management, along with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Reed College. The Harwood could not have picked a better candidate for this particular moment in time, but Juniper’s long road home, was a winding one to say the least.
“When I left Taos, I didn’t expect to come back to stay, I loved living in Seattle, where I worked at the Henry Art Gallery (on the University of Washington campus.)”
After a decade in the rainy city, the weather finally got to her and she moved to Barcelona for a time, where she soaked up the art and culture along with the sunshine.
While still in Seattle she had met Chad Manley, the incredibly talented artist and designer who would become her husband and the father of her two sons, but it wasn’t until she returned from Europe and he had followed his own trajectory, that the two of them became a couple. Ironically Chad too, spent much of his childhood in Pecos, not too far from Juniper’s Penasco origins.
“Chad really anchored me here,” she said, “besides, my family is here and I love it and I am so very grateful that I’ve been able to come back to the Harwood, on my own terms, to work in my field.”
“I feel as if I have come full circle, in a sense,” she told me. “The story of the Harwood in itself always fascinated me.”
“Then to have left Taos to study and come back to work at the Harwood and to learn even more was constantly inspiring.” She said. “To discover that so many art movements from around the world have all had links to Taos! To think that all these movements crossed and converged in Taos and live on through the Harwood collection, is truly amazing.”
I asked Juniper what she hopes to bring to the museum through her new position. It is interesting to note that her last project (at the museum), before leaving her former position, was the critically acclaimed Mabel Dodge Luhan show, and intriguing to say the least, that her return coincides with the exhibit of a new show featuring another influential woman; The Birth Project by Judy Chicago.
“Well, because I’ve been there before, it’s not brand-new, but I’ve have been gone for two years,” she said. “So, listening and asking questions is at the top of my list, and getting a sense from the fabulous staff about what’s needed.That’s my priority.”
“Then I want to reach out to the community to see what is wanted by all the diverse sectors (of our community), because at the end of the day, the Harwood is a public institution and needs to serve the public.”
“We hope to have some forums where the public can come together on certain themes and get conversations started. For example, how are we addressing the economy? How can the Harwood serve artists and the downtown area, or even Taos Pueblo?”
I asked her how she envisioned the future of the arts in Taos, and the role of the Harwood in that future,
“The Harwood is an important institution with the potential to really inform the creativity of our community.” She responded. “ Because the Harwood is attached to [the University of New Mexico], they can also bring in amazing lecturers and performers, so I want to expand that to work even more closely with UNM, with the Institute of American Indian Arts and more arts organizations in Santa Fe and beyond.”
“We live in an incredible culturally and historically rich region,” she continued, “ with art itself changing as young people from every sector become more inspired and involved, so my question is how we can bring even more to Taos so that everyone benefits?”
And about her new gig, she’s excited and at the same time feels the considerable weight of her position as Director of this venerable institution.
“I’m very excited and obviously feel so honored that I was chosen – it’s just a great opportunity to work with the community to preserve and advance both our cultural heritage and the arts.”
For more on the Harwood Museum of Art, please visit their site linked below,
All images lifted from Juniper’s Facebook page.