Gealt reflects on her time as IU Art Museum Director


IU Art Museum Director Heidi Gealt explores the meaning of "impressionist" art using "Le Bassin d'Argenteuil" by Claude Monet. The 1874 oil-on-canvas was painted from a bridge overlooking the river, near Paris, and a popular getaway from urban life. Gealt said Monet, as an impressionist, helped create a new way to see the world using a new way to create art. IDS file photo and IDS file photo

Current IU Art Museum Director Adelheid “Heidi” Gealt is preparing to retire after dedicating more than 40 years of her life to the museum.

Gealt announced she would be stepping down as the art museum director in May 2014. Her time as the museum director will end June 30.

Gealt has been the IU Art Museum Director since 1987 and has been working at the museum since 1972.

“It’s a very difficult and challenging job,” Gealt said. “When I first started the job years back, I didn’t think I would be able to do or handle that kind of work.”

Looking back at everything she did at IU during the past few decades, Gealt said she is very pleased with the goals she and her staff achieved for the museum.

“I think the museum achieved many goals and that was acquiring endowments for the museum,” Gealt said. “I inherited a great collection of artwork but had no endowments, which was my primary focus when I started.”

In 2013, the IU Art Museum was granted a $500,000 endowment challenge grant through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This endowment allowed the museum to continue to provide future generations of students with a variety of services provided by the museum.

Gealt said the museum also improved by increasing efforts toward research conservation, publishing many important publications and reaching out to the community with academic enterprise.

Gealt has received some individual recognition as well. In January, she received the Sagamore of the Wabash honorary award bestowed by Gov. Mike Pence. This award recognizes those who have rendered service to the state or to the Governor.

It was announced in April that David Brenneman, Director of collections and exhibitions at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, would be the next IU Art Museum Director, according to an IU press release.

Art has always been a part of Gealt’s life. She said art is important for everyone to witness and understand for their education.

“Higher education wouldn’t be anything without the arts,” Gealt said. “We are all the richer for being exposed to the visual arts. When you walk through the museum, you get a sense of its significance.”

Gealt said after she steps down as director she will continue helping out with the museum. She will do this by continuing to raise funds, research upcoming projects and write publications for the art museum.

“I’m very proud to have been an agent of this museum,” Gealt said. “I am sure going to miss coming to this glorious space and seeing art whenever I wanted to. Everywhere I turn is sheer beauty.”

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