Get to know our faculty through this ongoing series. This month, we interviewed Dr. Eric Kjellgren, Clinical Faculty and Director of the American Museum of Asmat Art.
What area of art history/architectural history did you focus on in graduate school? And where did you go?
In graduate school I focused on the arts of the Pacific Islands. I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on contemporary Indigenous Australian artists in the East Kimberly region of Western Australia for which I spent a year living in the Australian “Outback.” I did my graduate work at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa.
And what area do you focus on now? What’s a factoid everyone should know about that area?
I continue to focus on the arts of the Pacific Islands, concentrating on the Asmat in my role as director of the American Museum of Asmat Art. However, I have an interest in all areas of the Pacific and recently had the opportunity to work on a project renovating a community museum in the Marquesas Islands near Tahiti.
Factoid: As a geographic region, the Pacific is by far the largest art producing area in the world, occupying an area larger than all of the continents combined and is home to approximately 1,800 different cultures.
Best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I ever received came from a curator at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu for whom I was working as a graduate student who told me to take advantage of every opportunity I could to travel and see as much of the art of the Pacific while I was still a student before all the other obligations of life set in. During my time in graduate school I was fortunate to be able to visit many areas of the Pacific.
If you weren’t a professor, what would you do and why?
If I wasn’t a professor and museum director I would like to work in wildlife conservation, which combines my love for the natural world and commitment to preserve it for future generations.