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From curator to curated, Russell Panczenko follows his retirement last September as museum director of the Chazen Museum of Art with an exhibit of his own photography.
Panczenko put together an exhibit of 60 photographs — images of buildings, portraits of artists at work in their studios and of everyday objects — that will be shown from May 4 through Sept. 28 at Gallery 800 UBD. The gallery is tucked inside the UW Hospital and Clinics Recruitment building at University Bay Drive.
Joyce Bromley, a docent at Chazen, invited Panczenko to debut his photography at Gallery 800 UBD, where Bromley is the curator.
A native of Germany raised in Connecticut, Panczenko obtained his art history doctoral degree in Florence, Italy, and is a global traveler. He says he’s taken photos since he was a teenager.
Panczenko says he treasured the autonomy he was given when he arrived in Madison in 1984 to work at Chazen, then known as the Elvehjem Museum of Art.
After 33 years there, Panczenko says spearheading the $43 million, privately funded expansion of the museum is his greatest accomplishment and legacy. The 86,000-square-foot development opened in 2011 for art storage and preservation work.
Under Panczenko’s guidance, the museum nearly doubled the size of its collection from 12,000 to 21,000 pieces. As of February 2017, the Chazen — renamed for lead donors Jerome A. and Simona Chazen — boasted the second-largest collection of art in Wisconsin.
Panczenko says he has no interest in holding a position on the museum’s advisory board because he wants new director Amy Gilman to establish herself at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s campus museum. Gilman was named to the Chazen post in September.
“I’m not sure what Amy’s aesthetic vision is, but in terms of running an institution, she’s got her feet on the ground,” Panczenko says.
With the photographs he took during his world travels lining the floors, tables and walls of his campus-area home, Panczenko says he painstakingly spent hours deciding which images to include in the exhibit and in what order.
Panczenko admits that the process has proven that, retired or not, he’ll always be a curator.
Tamira Madsen is a Fitchburg-based writer.