Mecham to head Bilox art museum

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Denny Mecham, director of the Waterworks Visual Arts Center 1998-2004, has been named executive director of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Miss. Mecham recently resigned as director of the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, which she headed for four years after leaving Salisbury. She will assume her new post Oct. 15.
Mecham, a potter by training, will be heading one of the finest facilities for pottery exhibition in the country, home to the collection of the self-styled “Mad Potter of Biloxi” George Ohr. A native of Biloxi, Ohr is today considered a genius with pottery, described as “pushing the expressionistic boundaries of clay to their limits.” He died in 1918.
One of the special features of the Ohr-O’Keefe museum to be headed by Mecham is its design by architect Frank Gehry. His open, curvilinear, diverse West Coast style of design has become internationally renowned. His concept for the Ohr-O’Keefe is a series of stainless steel pods sitting on a site near the Gulf of Mexico. Through the generosity of individuals, the support of foundations, and appropriations of local, state, and federal agencies, the Gehry-designed site was under construction when the Gulf Coast was hit by Hurricane Katrina and much of the site was leveled. Three years later, the museum is rebuilding and its permanent collection of George Ohr’s works is in storage.
During her tenure in Salisbury at the Waterworks, Mecham, an art educator as well as professional artist, served as curator from 1994-98 before assuming the director’s post. She led the WVAC through its final years in its old site on Water Street in Salisbury’s former water works and law enforcement building. That building has since returned to municipal use as home to Salisbury-Rowan Utilities.
She also led the Waterworks through facility planning, capital campaign, and construction of the new arts center at 123 East Liberty Street. “I have great memories of the team effort by the board and staff to bring the new Waterworks to reality,” she said. “We were all so proud of the final results. And Salisbury is such an extraordinary community. The Freedman’s Cemetery Memorial completion, after a number of years in planning and execution, is also a Salisbury memory that I cherish.”
Mecham was instrumental in planning and facilitating the project, and the Water-works served as fiscal steward for the project.
Mecham’s work with the North Carolina Pottery Center was characterized by a series of changes which brought increased public attention and funding to its programs and exhibits. “It was a privilege to work with the board and staff at the pottery center and, of course, with North Carolina’s remarkable community of potters during these challenging but rewarding times,” Mecham said.
During her tenure at the center, she reinstalled the permanent exhibit and implemented an exhibition schedule with historical and contemporary work from across the state. In the last four years, the center has received over $300,000 in public and private grants. She also guided the Center’s partnership with Seagrove Elementary School on student programming and with the town of Seagrove on its strategic plan.
Among her other achievements is the editing of “The Living Tradition: North Carolina Potters Speak,” which will be published this fall.