North Carolinian selected as head of Ohr-O'Keefe
By PAM FIRMIN
North Carolina potter, educator, museum director and arts leader Denny Mecham starts work Oct. 15 as the new executive director of Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi.
She follows Marjorie Gowdy, who retired at the end of August.
Mecham was chosen from a field of about 40 applicants, of which Ohr board members interviewed 21 by phone and the final five in person.
"We're pretty pleased with our find, I've got to tell you," Ohr board President Larry Clark said Monday about Mecham's selection.
"With her background and experience with fundraising and building projects, she's the whole package. People are thrilled with her abilities, but her personality and temperament make her the type person who is going to fit into our community."
That was a key factor. The board wanted someone willing to move to the Coast and make it their home, Clark said, who would become involved in the community and would make a 10-year commitment to the museum.
'I think God must have sent her to us,'
" Clark quoted someone saying of Mecham.
On Monday, the first time Mecham saw the beachfront construction site for the new Frank Gehry-designed museum, she told the Sun Herald, "It took my breath away. All I can see is the potential. What a vision."
She said a museum "really represents that true independent and creative spirit that is the people of that area.
"By working with tourism, by providing a network for community activities... a museum does not stand alone," Mecham said. "Part of its job is to engage the community, both local and national.
"My job is to fundraise, get grants, be proactive. The board is very clear that given the economic needs of the area that our fundraising needs to happen elsewhere. We have a real challenge there."
First on her agenda is... " to jump right in and immediately prioritize," she said. "I'll be listening more than anything."
She will be here next week to find a place to live, then will be publicly introduced at the annual Beau Rivage gala Oct. 15.
The Mecham file
Who: Denny Mecham, the newly named executive director of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, who begins duties here Oct. 15.
Education: She holds two master's degrees, one in science in studio art and the other in art; worked as a college instructor for 22 years, most recently as assistant professor of art at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.;
Artist: Was a potter for many years, also a weaver and painter; continued as a studio artist while teaching.
Museums: In 1994 became museum curator, then director, at the Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, N.C., and directed the capital campaign to build a new art center. Currently she is executive director at the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, N.C., a museum dedicated to showcasing North Carolina pottery.