Merry Scully, former New Mexico Museum of Art head of curatorial affairs, is leaving the state with a heavy heart but an eager eye toward Southern California.
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—One of Merry Scully’s fondest memories of her time as a Santa Fe arts worker occurred nearly fifteen years ago when she first moved to the area and started working at the Governor’s Gallery.
“I drove around the state quite a bit, meeting with artists and other organizations, and that gave me an opportunity to get to know the state,” says Scully. “I went to interesting places that I might not have gone ordinarily,” such as Silver City and Tucumcari.
She adds, “That was really helpful for the first couple years for Alcoves,” a series of large group shows (which took place in 2012, 2016, and 2020), featuring statewide New Mexico artists that Scully organized as curator at the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Scully, a respected Santa Fe curator, recently announced that she’s leaving the museum—and the state—for an executive director position at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art at California State University, San Bernardino. Scully will lead RAFFMA, which she says hosts the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on the West Coast, and plans to create more contemporary programming for the Southern California art space that opened in 1996. Friday, August 5, 2022, was her last day at the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Scully first began her Santa Fe arts career in 2006 as curator of the Governor’s Gallery, an outreach facility (located inside of the New Mexico State Capitol) of the New Mexico Museum of Art and the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.
Following a four-year-plus stint, she headed to the state-run New Mexico Museum of Art, where she spent nearly three years as the curator of special projects before moving to the position of head of curatorial affairs, a post she held for close to nine years.
One of her proudest achievements was putting together the exhibition Poetic Justice during the chaos of the pandemic lockdown. The show showcased works by Judith F. Baca, Mildred Howard, and Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith (Salish-Kootenai), and also featured a billboard project in partnership with poets Hakim Bellamy, Levi Romero, and Edie Tsong.
“Even though it was curated during COVID, we did some great collaborations with SITE [Santa Fe] and I liked being able to commission poets and artists. I don’t want to sound like a big bragger, but I thought the show was beautifully installed,” laughs Scully, who also taught art history classes at Santa Fe Community College and art theory courses at the now-shuttered Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
Scully also helped plan and visualize the Vladem Contemporary, a $16.5-million, 35,000-square-foot contemporary wing of the New Mexico Museum of Art that is scheduled to open in 2023.
Scully, originally from the Southern California area, is both saddened to leave New Mexico and looking forward to assuming her director post on August 17, 2022 at RAFFMA, which also showcases ancient Mediterranean pottery, Asian ceramics, African art, pre-Columbian pieces, and contemporary art inside of an art space located on the main campus of CSUSB. She’s particularly enthusiastic about interfacing with students, an experience she enjoyed when she worked at the San Francisco Art Institute.
“I really like being in an academic environment and working on exhibitions that could be complementary to the coursework. I think that’s going to be exciting,” says Scully.
Although she’s bidding adieu to New Mexico, she plans to incorporate some of her regional arts experiences into her new job. “I’m always trying to add a little bit of the ‘West’ in ‘Southwest,’” says Scully.
“It’s a really unique artist community [in New Mexico] and I’m leaving with a heavy heart,” she adds, “but I needed to have a new opportunity.”