There’s a big change at the Triton Museum of Art: Preston Metcalf is no longer head of the museum’s curatorial department. Earlier this month it was announced that Metcalf, the longtime chief curator will be transitioning into the newly created deputy director role—a position focusing on development and partnerships with local businesses in addition to giving the lectures he has been known for giving. Taking over his vacated chief curator position is another longtime museum employee, María Esther Fernández.
Fernández, who celebrated 13 years with the Triton in May, was originally hired as the curator of education. That role, which will be filled once an applicant is found, focused on planning the museum’s educational programming, including curating classes for children and adults. Two years after joining the museum’s staff, she was approached by former executive director George Rivera about joining the curatorial department.
“I like to joke that my graduate school experience has been here at the museum, really learning under a mentor, George Rivera, who saw something in me,” Fernández said with a laugh. “I had interned and worked with the artists in the community and have always had an interest in the visual arts, and then he offered me a position in the curatorial department as an assistant curator.”
After accepting the position, Fernández, who is currently finishing up her master’s degree at the California College of the Arts, helped curate a handful of shows between 2006 and 2010. She then curated a group show—her first without assistance—in 2010. Seven years later, she is stepping into a role she’s passionate about and says she’s not only committed to continuing the museum’s mission of serving the Santa Clara and South Bay communities, but is interested in finding ways to give underrepresented artists an equitable voice and platform for their art.
“I see my role as continuing the legacy of bringing in new voices … looking at how we work with artists and looking at our practice and how we can be more open, and my focus is really bringing in underrepresented communities especially given the time that we’re in now in our country, I feel like it’s important that we learn and engage with each other in a more substantive way and I think the museum can be that place,” Fernández said. “The museum has often been seen as this elite institution where you come and learn top down, and I feel like this museum, what has been special about the Triton, is that we’re a community museum so we learn from each other. So, I am looking at ways that we can forge community and have a more democratic process here in a way that we can really evaluate our practice and see how we can be more open in bringing others who aren’t traditionally represented in a museum. That is a huge, huge focus of mine.”
Fernández is working on filling up her curatorial calendar. She’s talking to local artists, visiting studios and getting out into the community, but her first exhibition as the chief curator will not take place until 2019. Until then, she will be aiding Metcalf with his final two years of planned exhibitions.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I think we have some really cool stuff coming up.”
The Triton Museum of Art is holding a “Meet the New Chief Curator” event with light refreshments on Thursday, Oct. 5 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at 1505 Warburton Ave. Admission is free.