Eric Fuson can recall the thrill and wonder he felt the first time he entered the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art.
“I remember the person talking about George Caleb Bingham and one of the paintings that he’d done. I thought ‘I wish I could do that.’ And I went home and I started drawing,” he said.
A few decades after that visit, Fuson has been tapped to lead the museum as its executive director.
“I just saw an opportunity to bring what I know about art and the passion that I have for art to people who want to be involved with it. People need to know what’s going on and people need to be excited about it,” he said.
A St. Joseph native and professor of art at Missouri Western for more than 30 years, Fuson said one of his main goals will be continuing art education and discussion.
“I think every bit of a museum’s duty is for educational purposes — that’s why we’re here ... The art is for everybody and they can open up discussions about history, about the subject, about your own personal experience,” he said.
Having worked with an array of media, from sculpting and 3D design to painting, Fuson sees value in variety. His work includes the Walter Cronkite bust sculpture and Apollo 11 at Missouri Western. While he’s working as the executive director, he’ll also be collaborating with local firefighters for a firefighters memorial sculpture.
“I don’t really lean really hard one way or the other. I just really love to put all of it out there and see how people react, what they think, because art is a personal experience, no matter how you do it,” he said.
Variety will be part of Fuson’s mission at the museum. Standing on the main floor of the Albrecht-Kemper, he juxtaposes a current exhibit, “OKecoSCAPES” by Douglas Elder Shaw, which features a variety of modern sculptures and drawings, with classic paintings from the museum’s permanent collection that are showcased across the hallway.
“Some of the shows and the variety of work that you’ll see is pushing (art forward), which is so cool to see, right across from that that’s come before and where it came from. It’s all about how all that art pushes us forward as a society,” he said.
Fuson fills the executive director spot that’s been vacant since Brett Knappe left in 2019. Knappe served in the position for three years. For most of 2020, Megan Benitz was the interim director.
The job is a dream for Fuson. Since leaving his post at Missouri Western, he said he wants to put all of his energy into continuing the museum’s mission of promoting local and regional art.
“I just know how much of a jewel is it, not just for St. Joseph itself, but for the region. It really brings in people from all over. And I just really hope to further nurture that and let it grow as we go on into the future,” he said.
The museum is currently showcasing “OKecoSCAPES” during its regular business hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and