Widening Canvas

New Executive Director Sheila Bergman Looks to Expand ARTSBlock’s Footprint

By Lilledashan Bose

Sheila Bergman, who joined UC Riverside in February as executive director of ARTSblock, had a life-changing epiphany 25 years ago in New York City that changed the course of her career.

As an undergraduate at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, Bergman majored in fine arts and theater, with an emphasis in photography, film, and performance. She was drawn to New York by its vibrant arts scene, but she soon realized the community had a critical need for leaders with business savvy and entrepreneurial skills.

“Arts organizations used to be led by artists and art historians,” she said. “I saw organizations struggling and failing without adequate business leadership, and I said, ‘This is crazy. I need to change the ecosystem of arts management so what I value can grow and thrive.’”

Bergman has a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Studies from Fielding Graduate University, where she focused her research on curatorial practices in contemporary art museums. She also earned a master’s in interdisciplinary arts from San Francisco State University.

Bergman began her professional career as the associate director of the M. Harriet McCormick Center for the Arts at the Strand Theatre in Boston, followed by a stint as the co-director at Anthology Film Archives in New York, which included two theaters, a film library, and archives.

Most recently, Bergman directed the UC Santa Cruz Foundation. Before that, she served as assistant dean and executive director for external affairs for the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.

Though she still carries her camera and notebook with her as a way to “decompress,” Bergman now focuses on developing arts organizations into successful, sustainable entities.

“Sheila brings an impressive record of accomplishment in leading arts programming and education at all levels,” said Milagros Peña, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “Her background, experience, and accomplishments provide transformational opportunities for ARTSblock.”

Thinking Bigger

ARTSblock opened to the public in 2010, bringing together the California Museum of Photography, the Jack and Marilyn Sweeney Art Gallery, and the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts.

Bergman is working to develop and expand ARTSblock’s programming over the next five years as part of a strategic plan that was created with input from Riverside community members, UCR faculty members, and staff.

Visitors can expect more exhibitions and programs at both the California Museum of Photography and the Culver Center of the Arts. There are also plans to establish an endowment.

“This is critical,” Bergman said. “An endowment will provide funding for our exhibitions, collections, performing arts programs, and operations.”

ARTSblock has already expanded its footprint by extending evening hours until 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and opening between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sundays. Exhibition text panels will be printed in both English and Spanish to appeal to a broader audience, while a museum education program for middle and high school students has also launched. Meanwhile, a pedestrian exhibition on street level features rotating content.

Arts and Crafts, a pop-up pub offering beer and wine, can also be visited every Friday and Saturday evening before film screenings at the Culver Center.

“ARTSblock is a place to convene,” Bergman said, inviting the community to visit the “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas” exhibition. “It’s a really exciting time to introduce our new vision for the museum and arts center to the region. We want everyone to become part of the ARTSblock family.”