Meet the Staff: Kate Brown

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Kate Brown joined the Foundation team in December 2016 as our Collections Manager. Based in Chicago, Kate is responsible for the safe transport and care of the Foundation’s myriad collections, our new acquisitions and our loans to museums. Kate can also assist with image requests and artwork loan inquiries.

THOMA FOUNDATION: Tell us a little about yourself. What did you do before joining the Thoma Foundation staff?

KATE: I originally moved to Chicago on a whim in 2009, immediately fell in love with the city and now I’m one of those Iowan transplants that pop up everywhere. From 2010 to 2012 I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and obtained my MA in Modern Art History, Theory & Criticism. Prior to working for the Thoma Foundation, I worked for a Chicago-based fine art appraisal company as their Senior Appraisal & Research Assistant. While there, I oversaw all facets of collection management for our institutional clients and the company.

THOMA FOUNDATION: The Foundation’s collection ranges from seventeenth-century Spanish Colonial panel paintings to contemporary digital art. What have been the biggest challenges and rewards so far in working with such a diverse collection?

 I think the biggest challenge for such a diverse collection is keeping the focus necessary to provide specialized care for each type of object. For example, the collection care needs for digital light sculptures varies wildly from the needs of Taos Modernist paintings. However, the rewards heavily outweigh the challenges. While the collection reflects a broad range of interests, it also reflects the various ways that artists think and create – becoming almost an encyclopedic overview of art-making methods. This allows the Foundation to illustrate connections between different artist oeuvres that may not be immediately obvious in new and interesting ways.

Do you have a favorite artwork in the collection?

KATE: Currently my favorite artwork is Sarah Frost’s Buy 5 yr. I love that it is composed of discarded computer keyboard keys, which essentially become technological ephemera. While the composition retains formality, the individual keys still retain the unintentional wear patterns and built-up grime from previous use. It raises wonderful questions regarding preventative collections care v. artistic intent.

THOMA FOUNDATION: Where is your favorite place to see art in the Chicago area?

I live in Roger’s Park, which has an amazing collection of public murals and outsider art installations. Almost every block and every train viaduct has a mural that illustrates the breadth of the Roger’s Park community and its cultural history. I think the effort that the neighborhood has placed on freely accessible and community driven artwork is remarkable – even compared to the city’s phenomenal public art efforts elsewhere.