MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For this edition of “Women to Watch,” Trend Tracker® Tara Gilani spent quality time with Bonnie Clearwater, one of America’s top museum directors.
Revered for helping make Miami a major player on the international art scene during her 16 years at the helm of Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Clearwater is cutting an even wider swath in her current powerhouse position as Director and Chief curator at NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale.
With masterworks by Julian Schnabel as a backdrop, Gilani and Clearwater chatted about their mutual love of art, artists and all things creative.
“Location, location, location” is how Gilani started off the conversation. Both laughed.
“Indeed,” said Clearwater. “We are right in the heart of the South Florida art coast. NSU Art Museum becomes the bridge between Miami and Palm Beach so instead of me having left Miami, what I’ve done is I’ve helped expand the South Florida arts scene north so it’s a continuous art coast.”
Art is Clearwater’s life.
“It’s so nice to be able to have that kind of experience where you can transcend yourself and enter really, the life, the thinking, the perspective of another human being, whether they’re still alive or from the way past.”
Clearwater started her museum career while in college at New York University.
In graduate school at Columbia University, she became Leonard Lauder’s, as in Estee Lauder, private curator. As great an experience and opportunity as that was, dropping names is not what Clearwater is about—she’s about the work and making progress.
“It’s never been about my career. I never thought about where do I want to be next. It’s always about how can I build this institution, how can I build this collection.”
Clearwater personifies “build it and they will come.”
“I tend to stay at a place for quite a long duration in order to actually build. I really enjoy the building part, making something function, creating something that didn’t exist before,” she told Gilani.
Up now at NSU Art Museum: Paintings by Julian Schnabel and Frida Kahlo. Coming soon: Some exquisite photography.
“The history of photography in Haiti. Amazingly enough this has never happened before. The next show I’m curating is of the American photographer Lee Miller. Amazing woman who, if she was still alive, you would be interviewing her,” Clearwater said.
Gilani asked Clearwater if the art business is a man’s world.
“I’ve seen it become less so. I think what’s interesting about the women museum directors that I know they’re willing to change things, come up with new ways of doing things, be more interested in the community outreach.”
Gilani asked Clearwater she would like to be curator at the Met or the Getty or somewhere in Europe.
“My dream job is always the place that’s going to give me the freedom and say ‘know what you do and you do it great, just do it.’ I’ve been very fortunate that throughout my career, I’ve had that kind of support,” Clearwater said.
Bonnie Clearwater, from the heart, answered the Trend Tracker®’s round of questions: I am, “a happy woman with a wonderful longtime marriage and a great career,” I want, “to do the best for our community and for art history,” I wish, “to inspire,” I promise, “to inspire.”