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Bonnie Clearwater on Leaving MOCA

Hunter Braithwaite

Yesterday, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater announced that she was leaving the museum to lead Nova Southeastern University’s Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale. She spoke to Miami Rail editor Hunter Braithwaite this afternoon.

This decision caught many off guard. How long has it been in the works?

It happened pretty fast. The museum kept approaching me in the past. But my focus has always been MOCA—bringing it to the point where it had an incredible foundation, financial support, a large public, and a curator that would allow me to consider accepting a new position.

Why Fort Lauderdale?

There’s the building. It’s 83,000 sq. feet with 29,000 sq. feet of exhibition space. And the collection is encyclopedic in scope. I’ve been focused on contemporary art for the last 20 years, but my background as an art historian is in medieval and modern art. Also, you know how much I care about the South Florida Art scene.

There is talk of you expanding the museum’s educational initiatives. Are there any specific measures being planned?

I consider MOCA an education museum. Nova Southeastern University’s Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale will have an extraordinary opportunity to integrate education. It is NSU’s museum. The goal is to integrate interdisciplinary learning, and to elevate the art program to the point that we can have a school that’s competitive, bringing students from Miami and from all over. That’s always been one of my dreams, and it’s something that we’ve all been saying that we’d like to see. And NSU’s President George Hanbury is fully supportive.

In addition to the museum, there is the 11,000 sq. foot Autonation Academy of Art + Design, a separate building across Andrews Avenue, which will be constantly programmed for students of all ages. You’ve seen what we’ve been able to do with one classroom at MOCA. Here the school is already in place.

Which MOCA exhibition best represented your time at that institution?

Just about every exhibition, but I’m very proud of the upcoming Tracy Emin exhibition (December 3, 2013-December 4, 2014). I’m also very proud of the education department.