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Q&A: Carissa Hussong

Director of UrbanArt Commission, Incoming director of the National Ornamental Metal Museum

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Who better to replace a founding director than another founding director?

In January, UrbanArt Commission head Carissa Hussong will replace Jim Wallace at the National Ornamental Metal Museum. Wallace, who led the Metal Museum for more than 25 years, will retire December 31st. Hussong has been with UrbanArt since its inception 10 years ago.

Wallace's spot may be filled, but UrbanArt is still seeking someone to replace Hussong. Applications will be accepted through November 30th. — Mary Cashiola

Flyer: What was the best part of working with UrbanArt?

Hussong: When people don't know that I have anything to do with UrbanArt and they tell me about a project that we did and how much they love it, then I feel I've accomplished something.

Is there a project that has been especially meaningful?

They have different meanings and there are different memories associated with each of them, so it's hard to pick one.

The Cooper-Young trestle was early on. When I went into it, I felt certain I could find an example of another trestle somewhere.

I called all over the country and everyone said, "That's a great idea. I can't wait to see what happens." There was nothing that showed this had been done anyplace else. I was thinking, I can't believe I got myself into this. But it ended up being something the community really loved.

What are you eager to do at the metal museum?

I'm looking forward to getting back into the museum world — that's where I started out — and focusing on the artistic side. So much of what I have been doing has been facilitating.

W>hat will be a challenge for you?

It's hard to follow in a founding director's footsteps. I'm not a blacksmith; I'm not an artist. I have to find a way to replace those skill sets.

People have a fear that the museum will change. Yes, we're moving into the 21st century, but it has to be a balance between growing and preserving what the museum is. I don't see myself going in there and drastically changing the museum.

W>hat is UrbanArt looking for in your replacement?

Everybody's initial thought is we have to replace the director. The Metal Museum said we need to find somebody who is a blacksmith and an executive director. That's a hard thing to find. I think I'm a little easier to replace.

They need somebody with an arts background. Being able to work with our various constituents is really important: the City Council, Memphis City Schools, community representatives. Whoever comes in has to be able to work with those various groups and really engage them in the process.

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