Meet the Staff: Anna Stiles

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Collections Manager Anna Stiles joined the Foundation team in September 2015. Based in Chicago, Anna handles the logistics of the Foundation’s artwork loans, acquisitions, and the maintenance of the collection in Chicago – no small task when that collection includes over 500 works of art!

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

ANNA: I moved to the Chicago area this past August from Seattle with my husband and our dog, Olive. After getting my MA in Museum Studies from the University of Washington, I was working at a non-profit, contemporary art gallery and art school just east of Seattle called Kirkland Arts Center. As the Exhibitions Manager there, I was responsible for organizing and installing their gallery and satellite exhibitions.

THOMA FOUNDATION: The Foundation’s collection ranges from seventeenth-century Spanish Colonial panel paintings to contemporary digital art. What has been the biggest challenge working with such a diverse collection? The biggest reward?

ANNA: The biggest challenge has been learning about the various needs, histories and complexities of each collection. It is hard to dig in and become an expert on a particular collection area; however, gaining the experience with such a diverse collection is a huge opportunity. I think the biggest reward is seeing a snapshot of art history in one space and finding connections between seemingly unrelated areas of art.

THOMA FOUNDATION: Do you have a favorite piece of artwork in the collection?

ANNA: It may sound cliché, but with all the work to choose from my favorite work changes with my mood and with the day. Today, I really like the interactive work of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Please Empty Your Pockets and Pulse Index. His work invites the viewer to be part of the artwork and I think that is the kind of engagement we are craving as an audience right now.

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

ANNA: I’m on the board of the Oak Park Art League and have really appreciated being part of their community, learning about their history and seeing the artwork in their monthly exhibitions. I think most people understand the role of museums and commercial galleries in the art world, but smaller community art centers and family foundations also play a big part in artists’ careers and provide great access to artwork for the public.