PORTLAND — By spring, Mark Bessire will be able to walk a couple blocks to work and even drop his kids off at school on the way.
Bessire, a West End resident, last week was named director of the Portland Museum of Art. He has been director of the Bates College Museum of Art for the past five years and before that was director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art.
A New York native, Bessire is married to MECA instructor Aimee Bessire. They have two children who attend Reiche School.
Bessire replaces Daniel O’Leary, who retired last year. Curator Tom Denenberg served as an interim director. Bessire, who will start work on March 2, said his first task will be to talk with staff and board members to gain insight about the museum and its history.
“I have to say, the museum is so well run and there is such a committed staff here,” he said.
The 44-year-old also has an eye to the future and said the recently acquired Winslow Homer Studio in Prouts Neck and the Clapp House need planning. That historic house, purchased from MECA last year, is next to the McLellen House and the PMA campus. It abuts the former YWCA property the museum purchased last year, which is now serving as a parking lot.
“We need to think about these buildings as part of the collection,” Bessire said, and how they are integrated into the future story of the museum.
“Lots plays into the picture and we really have all these opportunities right now,” he said. “We need to think, ‘what’s the story we’re trying to tell?'”
Bessire is a graduate of New York University and holds master’s degrees from Hunter College and Columbia University. He s also a founding board member of Africa Schoolhouse, a nonprofit dedicated to building schools in rural Africa, and was a Fulbright Scholar in Tanzania.
The museum performed a national search for a new director and chose Bessire from a large pool of applicants, museum trustee and Search Committee Chairman James L. Moody said.
“Our committee is confident that Mark Bessire will do an outstanding job as our new director, and we look forward to working with him to make our museum and its programs even better,” Moody said.
Mark Bessire is the new director of the Portland Museum of Art.