Academics & Faculty

Marla C. Berns Named New Director of the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History


Marla C. Berns has been named the director of the UCLA FowlerMuseum of Cultural History. She succeeds Doran H. Ross, who retired as directoron July 1. The appointment, effective inNovember, was announced by Daniel Neuman, dean of the School of the Arts andArchitecture.

"Marla Berns has been avery positive force in the museum world for the past 25 years," Neuman said."Her experience and vision make her well-suited to lead this internationallyrecognized institution and to continue to enhance its relationship with theuniversity's academic programs as well as the varied cultural communities ofLos Angeles."

This appointment realizes Berns' return to the museum, whereshe began her career in the arts as an African arts graduate intern in 1978. In1986 she served as curator of the nationally travelling exhibition, "TheEssential Gourd: African Art From the Obvious to the Ingenious," organized bythe UCLA Fowler Museum. Throughout her career, she has been the curator ofexhibitions on topics as wide-ranging as women's inventions, 1930s fashion, thehistory of underwear, Japanese prints, 20th-century design and her specialty,African art.

Berns' long-standing relationshipwith the Fowler Museum has led to collaborative efforts such as "Japanese Fishermen's Coats From Awaji Island,"an exhibition co-organized by the Fowler and the University Art Museumat the University of California, Santa Barbara, thatis currently traveling internationally. "Just Another Poster? ChicanoGraphic Arts in California," currently on view at the Fowler, was organized by the University Art Museum (UAM) under her direction.

"We are delighted thatMarla Berns is returning to the UCLA family as director of the Fowler Museum,"said Chancellor Albert Carnesale. "Her experience, talent and leadership willhelp to further the excellence of the Fowler's wide-ranging collections andprograms. She will play a key role in enhancing UCLA's arts initiatives on ourcampus and beyond."

For the past 10 years Berns has served as director of the UAMand adjunct associate professor of art history at the University of California,Santa Barbara. Before her tenure at Santa Barbara in 1991, she was director ofThe Goldstein, a museum of design at the University of Minnesota.

She received her Ph.D. in art history at UCLA in 1986,specializing in African art. Her research and writing have concentrated onwomen's arts in Northeastern Nigeria — which include ceramics, decorated gourdsand programs of body scarification — and on the historical and ritual importanceof figurative ceramic vessels.

Among her accomplishments at UAM was the completion last Mayof a $2.3 million renovation of the museum's exhibition facility, creating anew entrance and adjoining 20,000-square-foot plaza and six new state-of-the-artgalleries.

At UAM Berns oversaw an exhibition program distinguished byits global diversity — with geographical focuses on Asia and Africa — and itsemphasis on contemporary art practices. There, Berns was also the curator oftwo nationally touring exhibitions, "Dear Robert, I'll See You at theCrossroads: A Project by Renee Stout" and "Ceramic Gestures: New Vessels byMagdalene Odundo." She has recently finished a retrospective exhibition andmonograph on Santa Barbara designer Paul Tuttle, who is internationally knownfor his furniture and architectural designs.

"I am committed to university museums because they can andshould remain laboratories for testing new ideas and pushing boundaries inprogram content, presentation and interpretation," Berns said. "The Fowler'sremarkable collections and its strong history of ambitious exhibitions,publications and educational activities based on groundbreaking scholarshipmake me proud to join its talented staff and lead the museum into the 21stcentury."

Berns beganher leadership of the Museum by appointing Mary Nooter "Polly" Roberts asdeputy director, in addition to her current role as the Fowler Museum's chiefcurator.



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