7 Questions with… Tracee Glab Executive Director, Flint Institute of Arts

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A Detroit native who previously served as the FIA’s Curator of Collections and Exhibitions since 2009, Tracee assumed the role of executive director in July. She succeeds John B. Henry, who announced his retirement this year.

Glab has her MA in Art History from Wayne State University and BA in Art History from University of Michigan-Dearborn. Prior to her role at the FIA, she worked for ten years at the Detroit Institute of Arts across many departments, including curatorial, publications and education.

As the FIA’s 14th director and the first female executive director, Glab is the third woman in the highest level leadership role since Margaret Davis and Mary Brozik led the FIA in the early 1930s.

During her time at FIA, Glab has overseen more than 100 exhibitions and curated 40 exhibitions. “My tenure as curator at the FIA has been the most rewarding part of my museum career, and I look forward to leading the museum into the next chapter,” she said. “With its stellar art collection and esteemed Art School in the heart of the Flint Cultural Center, I am excited to build on the strong foundation at the FIA and to engage the public in the arts in new and innovative ways.”

An internationally recognized and respected institution, the FIA is approaching its 100th anniversary, “I am excited to celebrate the amazing legacy of the institution while making the arts and arts education accessible to even more people in our community and beyond in the years to come.”

1. Who has most  inspired your  career path?

While many people have inspired my career path  – from friends, professors and former bosses, to my husband Jonathan – I would have to say the person with the most influence was my grandfather, Richard Calkins. He was one of the most joyful, generous and kind men I’ve ever known. He was a true Renaissance man – an engineer, a painter, a swimmer and a choir member at the Flat Rock Methodist Church. For me, he demonstrated the principle that faith and family come first and that with that, you can and should be industrious and creative –
something I try to live up to every day. One of his paintings depicting the majesty of the redwood forest hangs in my home office as a reminder of his intellectual, artistic and spiritual leadership in
my life.

2. What’s something people would never guess about you?

As an undergrad, I worked on two historical farms, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively, at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. There, I learned skills I was never exposed to growing up in the city, including feeding pigs, baking bread, starting a coal fire, carding and spinning wool to make yarn, rendering lard and making sausage (yes, from those same pigs we fed). I performed these farm activities all while wearing clothes from the time period and talking to Greenfield Village visitors. This experience helped me to better appreciate where our food and clothing comes from and the people who work in those industries.

3. If you had a WARNING label, what would it say?

“WARNING: Makes frequent stops at museums, art galleries and bookstores!” I love going to museums, galleries and bookstores, both for work and pleasure. In fact, I can’t really distinguish between the two sometimes, which makes me realize I picked the right career. Fortunately, I have a spouse who shares the same passion.

4. What’s your favorite quote from a TV show/movie/book?

My quote comes from one of my favorite novels, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. To set up the quote for those who haven’t read the book, the main character Eleanor is on her way to participate in a psychic investigation of a haunted house when she stops at a restaurant. There, she overhears a young girl refusing to drink milk out of the restaurant glass, instead wanting the one she
has at home, which has stars on the bottom.
The girl calls this her “cup of stars.”

“Don’t do it, Eleanor told the little girl; insist on your cup of stars; once they have trapped you into being like everyone else you will never see your cup of stars again; don’t do it; and the little girl glanced at her, and smiled a little subtle, dimpling, wholly comprehending smile, and shook her head stubbornly at the glass.”

5. What is the best gift you’ve received?

Books of all kinds and genres are my favorite gifts to receive. The best book gift, given to me by my grandparents when I was a young girl, was the box set of the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. At the time, I didn’t have many books of my own, so this set of seven books felt like the start of a real library. I’ve loved and re-read the stories since then, proving the quote by Lewis: “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

6. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Mac & cheese, of course!

7. What is one work-related thing you hope to achieve in the next year?

In my new role as executive director of the FIA, I would like to begin my tenure by being an engaged listener, to hear what others have to say about the museum. To facilitate this goal, I’ve initiated 15-minute listening sessions with all staff and participated in a Meet and Greet with museum visitors. These initiatives are only the beginning, as I plan to have future opportunities to listen to others about what matters most to them. This year, we are also embarking on the creation of a five-year strategic plan that will help guide the museum through to our 100th anniversary in 2028. Listening is a key component of a successful plan for the future.

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