After leading Otis’ Ben Maltz Gallery for more than a decade, Meg Linton leaves the art world to write a novel
After 55 exhibitions in a little over 10 years, earlier this month Meg Linton left her role as chief curator and director of galleries and exhibitions at Otis College of Art and Design’s Ben Maltz Gallery to pursue writing a novel.
Under Linton’s tenure the gallery has played an important role in staging the work of professional artists for public audiences and as a platform for student interaction with the art world. In recent years, Linton developed several partnerships between the Ben Maltz Gallery and Loyola Marymount University’s Laband Gallery, also in Westchester.
Linton, who had lived in Playa del Rey, is currently unpacking her new home in a small town (population 905) between Tucson and the Mexican border, where she has also relocated for family reasons.
— Michael Aushenker
What kind of novel are you writing?
An historical novel. I’m spending this year getting my writing chops back, next year writing, and then editing. … My bachelor’s degree is in English literature. I finally found my story a year and a half ago [and began hatching ideas while at Otis]. It’s kind of like throwing post-its in a file. Working at Otis, it was pretty much a 24/7 involvement. I always wanted to do really well by the artists.
How is running a gallery for an academic institution unlike supervising a commercial one?
Academic museums and galleries are unique. They kind of have two masters. You have a structure you have to work within. You also want to integrate into curriculum, find out what the themes are for the next semester. … On the other side, you’re supposed to attract a public audience. The student schedule and public schedule do not always match up.
Is there any aesthetic quality or theme that guarantees a successful exhibit?
There’s no one [magic] hook. It’s about which audience you want to bring into the gallery and how it will fit with the Otis curriculum. … [In 2005] we had our [famed lowbrow artist] Robert Williams exhibition, just shy of 10,000 visitors in eight weeks. It’s still the most successful in my history, and probably the history of the gallery.
What were some other highlights of the 55 exhibitions you organized?
“From The Island of Misfit Toys,” in which a group of fine artists used toys in their process. And the Freeway Studies project, “This Side of the 405” and “Inside the Quad,” an exhibition up right now.
The big one was our Getty Pacific Standard Time exhibit, “Doin’ it in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building” in 2011 and 2012. It featured the history of the Woman’s Building [a partnership among artists Judy Chicago, the late Arlene Raven and Sheila De Brettville, who founded the graphic design program at Otis]. That was a really remarkable project because of the topic and the research and the scholarship. We published two books with over 21 essays, plus five smaller publications. … The educational aspects were important, and I’m really proud of that.
How did the partnership with LMU begin?
On [2013’s] “Tapping the Third Realm.” Otis has partnered with LMU in a lot of different areas through product design. Carolyn Peter, who manages the Laband Gallery — we immediately became friends. That project fueled my desire and my courage to step out from the art world a little bit.
Any parting advice for students transitioning into the art world?
There are multiple art worlds to participate in. I would have a hard time with artists focused on commercial galleries. I think they need to do the work first, develop a personal voice.