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Karen Kemp named Albany Museum of Art director

The Albany Museum of Art is at 311 Meadowlark Drive.

The Albany Museum of Art is at 311 Meadowlark Drive.

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany Museum of Art's board of directors removed the interim tag from Karen Kemp's name at a meeting Thursday, naming her executive director of the museum.

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Albany Herald File

Karen Kemp, shown in this 2010 file photo, has had the interim dropped from her title. On Thursday, she was named executive director of the Albany Museum of Art. (Aug. 2, 2013)

The former director of the Lily Pad SANE Center has served as AMA interim director since August of 2012 and said Friday she's excited about the opportunities her official appointment opens for her.

"I feel so blessed right now," Kemp said. "I've loved art my whole life, and to get up in the morning knowing I'm going to work at the museum is just this amazing opportunity.

"I think people need art in their lives now more than ever, and I'm proud that the museum board has stressed a desire to keep entry here free to the public. One of the things we want to do is enhance educational opportunities from the cradle to the grave. We're going to work to give our community additional reasons to come to the museum."

Kemp replaces Nick Nelson as AMA executive director, and one of her primary concerns as she settles into the position is replacing outgoing curator Merritt Giles, who announced recently he is leaving Albany to take a position with Nelson in Springfield, Mo.

Museum Director of Marketing Cristin Kirbo said the board is considering a new direction in replacing Giles.

"In the past, we've had a curator of art and a curator of education," said Kirbo, who assumed her position with the museum in August as well. "As is the case with all nonprofits, we're trying to come up with creative ways to meet our responsibilities while at the same time cutting costs.

"We're looking now at bringing in someone to work on our education programs while using contract workers and volunteers to meet some of the responsibilities of the curator of art. For example, one of our board members, Charles Williams, wants to bring in college students to hang the artwork -- under his supervision --when we have new exhibits. That's an educational opportunity for the students that meets our needs as well."

Kirbo said the new leadership at the museum will not be afraid to try new things.

"We're not going to make set-in-stone, rash decisions," she said. "We're going to try things, see how the community responds. It's the community's museum."

Kemp, who helped oversee an upgrade of the museum facilities that will be unveiled to the public at an Aug. 15 event, said she's already lined up a fall project that's going to significantly impact the AMA grounds.

"Students in the graduate program at the University of Georgia are going to come here in the fall and design and create a sculpture garden that will improve our grounds significantly," Kemp said. "Students and professors are going to come down to work on the project together, and that will give us an opportunity to send out a national call for sculptors whose works we can showcase.

"Those are the kinds of partnerships we hope to use to bring the very best the art world has to offer to the people of Southwest Georgia."