Meet Our Staff: 5 Questions for David Carroll

I’m a little sad today, because it’s our final installment of the November Meet Our Staff feature. But any melancholy I may be feeling is combatted by the fact that today we get to meet David Carroll, our Director of Collections and Exhibitions, and one of our most fascinating employees.

5 Questions for David Carroll

What is your role at the UMFA? Describe a typical (or memorable!) day on the job.

My responsibilities are now mainly administrative.  I supervise the museum collection and exhibitions programs at the UMFA.  Planning, problem solving and coordinating the work of others take much of my time these days. I miss the “hands-on” part of working with museum objects, but our department is small enough that I still do a share of that work too.  Some of my best experiences in the past few years have been the installation and deinstallation of our bigger exhibitions like: Monet to Picasso, Splendid Heritage, or Speed those moments are definitely a departure from the routine.  With those projects I also get to see the culmination of lots of thoughtful planning and work by many people.

What is your favorite work in the collection, and why?

I have many secret favorites and perhaps because of the nature of my job I mostly refrain from admitting to favoritism.  However, I have long been intrigued by Ida Kohlmeyer’s Boogie Woogie wth Apologies to Mondrian.  In this work of art she repurposed the humble packing peanut.  Mostly using paints she individualized them so that they have personalities almost like people, but then she arranged them in a grid which tends to diminish their individuality.  I can’t really explain why it appeals to me, but I think it’s conceptually complex which is why it caught my eye.  Two of my all-time favorite artists, Mark Rothko and Caravaggio (could there be more of a contrast), are not in our collection so I feel safe in revealing that information

What are your favorite parts of this city and this state? When you’re not at the museum, where might we find you?

I’ve lived in the Avenues for the entire twenty plus year I’ve live in Utah. I like being in and on the edge of the city.  I can run beautiful foothill trails from my house and walk downtown on the same day.  I fell in love with southern Utah canyon country long before I moved to Utah. The Escalante River drainage is probably first among many favorite places.  I also spend a lot of time in the Wasatch year around

David Carroll and his son, Owen, in Canyonlands

David Carroll and his son, Owen, in Canyonlands

What is your favorite way to pass the time—what are your hobbies, your talents, your interests?

One spouse, one house, two (grown) children, and a cat occupy a significant amount of my attention away from work.  I also try to spend much of my life away from work outside.  I like to run trails, hike, fly fish, and backpack in the summer and fall months.  I’m an avid backcountry and track skier in the winter and spring.  I’m also a voracious reader with very catholic tastes though mostly non-fiction.  Just for the record Alfred Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism** is one of the most inspired books of the last thirty years.  Google it!  I also like to travel, but seem to manage less of that then I would like.

You have a bit of a reputation as the UMFA’s resident outdoor adventurer. I’ve heard rumors that you snowshoe, ski, and hike, and have survived more than one avalanche. Do you have a favorite story of a trip into the wild?

I don’t get the draw of snowshoeing – skis are so much more efficient and fun.

Epic trips always stand out more than the just good times.  Bad weather, close calls with lightning, and animal encounters seem to stick in my memories much more than the grandeur of fabulous landscapes on otherwise uneventful outings.  Yes, I do have an avalanche survival experience.  Adequate preparation, training, and hopefully good judgment mitigate a lot of risk, but with avalanches small mistakes accrue with large consequences. That particular encounter is at the top of my list of memorably bad days in the outdoors.  An old piece of wisdom I always keep in mind is: “The Mountain always wins.”

David Carroll skiing in Big Cottonwood Canyon

David Carroll skiing in Big Cottonwood Canyon

** Editor’s Note: Small Business Saturday is on November 30th; head to your favorite local bookstore to pick up or order this title!

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