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Chapman Curator to Expand Her Role

Maggi Owens is charged with developing a comprehensive plan to pump up the art scene and continue growth.


Stepping up efforts to create a lively art scene, Chapman University officials have designated a new curator position.

Maggi Owens, currently the co-director and curator of the school's Guggenheim Gallery, is broadening her role at the Orange university and her outreach to the community, officials said.

"Maggi has done wonderful work for us for more than a decade," said Hamid Shirvani, Chapman provost and executive vice president. "She's helped raise the profile of the Guggenheim Gallery. She knows the art community of Southern California, she knows how to orchestrate a variety of exhibitions and she can provide educational programs."

Owens, whose new duties were added Friday, will develop a comprehensive art program that includes the campus' first permanent collection of established and emerging artists. She will create an official inventory of all artworks on site and appraise the university's modest collection of Russian icons and sculptures, including bronze busts throughout the campus.

Her other duties are to secure works on loan, acquire art, oversee installations, arrange tours, and produce exhibition catalogs and promotional materials.

"What I want to do with this new job is to make art an expanded focus of the university," said Owens, 61, who will keep her job at the Guggenheim Gallery and report directly to Shirvani.

The new curator role stemmed from the university's continuing growth, officials said. Owens' role began to extend beyond the gallery walls in 1996, when Chapman President James L. Doti requested she curate art shows at the then-newly built Doy and Dee Henley Galleria, a hallway space in the school's bustling Argyros Forum classroom complex.

New facilities such as the School of Law, the Business School's Beckman Hall, a planned library and a music-school extension will require artistic touches, Shirvani said.

"The real intention is to promote art for students in different spaces and places to give the school a sense of aesthetics," Shirvani said. "Our goal was to expose students to as much art as possible. . . . We want to expand our service out to the community with art programs in addition to our music, dance and theater performances."

Owens earned a master's degree in exhibition design and museum studies at Cal State Fullerton in 1995 and served on the acquisition council at the now-defunct Newport Harbor Art Museum. She has worked at the Guggenheim Gallery since 1990, bringing established artists such as Edward Kienholz and Kim Abeles to campus.

She also presented emerging international and local talents she saw while traveling to galleries and art fairs across the country. In 1997, Owens became co-director with Richard Turner, who founded the gallery in 1972.

The two also share curatorial duties. Owens seldom shies from controversial shows that explore such topics as race relations, religion, sex, death and gender politics.

Her current exhibition at the Guggenheim Gallery, "The Waiting Room," is an interactive installation by San Francisco artist Richard Kamler that examines lives affected by the death penalty. What better place to question social issues and expose people to a variety of points of views than a university setting, Owens said.

"I'm excited about the new position," she said. "I truly believe a focus on art is really important to the university's standing in the community."

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