June 9, 2020
Park Record: The Kimball Art Center, one of the nonprofits that is at the front and center of Park City’s arts and culture community, has announced Aldy Milliken as its new executive director.
The KAC partnered with Arts Consulting Group to conduct a global search for the post, said board chairman Dan Lemaitre.
“Aldy is a true arts visionary who comes with community-building experience,” Lemaitre said in a press release. “This is especially important considering Kimball Art Center’s goal to better serve our community and to become an international destination to explore and inspire creativity. Aldy has a proven track record building art spaces and a relentless dedication to connecting people with art, which mirrors our mission statement.”
Milliken, who will replace Jory Macomber and start his duties at the Kimball Art Center on July 1, spent the past eight years leading the KMAC Museum in Louisville, Kentucky through a transformational change that connected the public to art and creativity through a multi-million dollar renovation project that included expanding education and exhibition programs.
When you work in culture, you learn about how strong and connected the community is, even in conflicts…” Aldy Milliken, Kimball Art Center’s new executive director
Through that, he also helped KMAC secure accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, and hopes his experience can make an impact in Park City as the town continues to prepare for the proposed arts and cultural district along Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive.
“It will be an incredible opportunity for me to come to Park City, which as a place, has decided to declare that culture is a huge stake in the ground and a huge commitment for the community,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having the Kimball Art Center’s staff and board lean on my experience so we all can enjoy this journey together and explore art in a way that is authentically Park City and Utah. I feel it’s my job and the Kimball Art Center staff’s job to excite people about this next phase.”
Milliken, a fine art photographer, is also intrigued at how the coronavirus has affected not only the overall community, but also local artists.
“We can’t deny that this pandemic isn’t going to affect us,” he said. “The world is a different place now. In a way. I’m also starting fresh under the blanket of COVID-19. So I feel it’s my duty as an arts leader to rally the charge and bring people together to figure out what the new normal is from a cultural sense.”
Milliken’s road to becoming an art administrator and educator started when his grandfather gave him a camera when he was 8 years old.
“I don’t think there was a time after that when I wasn’t interested in art,” he said.
Milliken enjoyed working in the darkroom during middle school, and joined the yearbook staff in high school. He was introduced to Utah during his junior year at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, when he learned about Nancy Holt’s public art installation, “Sun Tunnels,” which consists of four large concrete cylinders that are arranged in a way to frame the sun during the summer and winter solstices in Utah’s Great Basin Desert, he said
“I learned about ‘Sun Tunnels’ during an art avant-garde class, and I was so fascinated that I actually drove from Portland to see it in 1987,” he said. “Ever since then, I’ve carried a photo of the installation in my wallet, and I’ve been back there three or four times.”
While pursuing his love of photography, Milliken looked to the self portraits of Cindy Sherman. “Photography is difficult because when you take a picture, there is a danger of appropriating someone or a place, and that appropriation can politicize someone or put them in bad light,” he said. “Cindy gets around that by using her own body as part of the meaning in the work, and, in a sense, letting herself tell stories she would create by basically using her own body as the canvas.”
Milliken was also inspired by American multi-media artist Robert Rauschenberg, and Swedish abstract artist and mystic Hilma af Klint. Rauschenberg was one of the artists to come out of North Carolina’s Black Mountain College, an experimental liberal arts school. “He was part of the group of collaborative artists who were so important in creation what is now the American Art Scene,” Milliken said. Milliken’s appreciation for Klint grew in 2006 when he had the opportunity to exhibit her work while operating his own art gallery in Stockholm, Sweden. “I’ve been able to be part of the history of her work in a sideways aspect before it became a world phenomenon,” he said.
In addition to living in Sweden, Milliken has lived and worked in art overseas in Indonesia and Hungary. He is also a graduate of the Museum Leadership Institute and serves as a peer mentor to museum leaders across the globe. He hopes to bring some of those experiences to Park City.
“When you work in culture, you learn about how strong and connected the community is, even in conflicts,” he said. “In this part of the world, there is a lot of social unrest, and we’re finding art museums are helping elevate voices that have not been appreciated.”
Collaborating with contemporary artists always pushes Milliken to think about new ideas, problem solving opportunities and collaborations.
“I do feel like it’s part of my role as an arts curator and educator to share what I learned across the globe and give us opportunities to think outside the box,” he said.