Tulsa Kids: Meet Philbrook’s New Director Scott Stulen
After launching a lengthy international search, the Scott Stulen was selected as Philbrook Museum of Art’s new director. Stulen’s top-notch experience, leadership and unique approach to engaging audiences with art hints at things to come.
TK: What are three adjectives that describe you?
Stulen: Passionate, Creative and Approachable
TK: Where were you employed prior to accepting the position at Philbrook, and what was your role?
Stulen: I was the Curator of Audience Experiences and Performance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the first position of its kind in the country. At IMA I created engaging (and often surprising) exhibitions and programs to connect new audiences with the museum collection and campus.
TK: What interested you about the director’s position at Philbrook?
Stulen: Many things. The beautiful campus, the uniquely positioned downtown space, financial stability, a dedicated board, talented staff, rich and diverse collection and all set inside a vibrant Midwestern city. But most importantly I have admired how Philbrook has become a community-focused institution, striving to be an innovator while embracing risk…precisely the place I want to work.
TK: I noticed from your Instagram page that you like Legos. Has this always been a favorite? When did your hobby begin?
Stulen: I have loved Legos since I was a kid. My favorite were the classic space Legos of the 1980s (think Benny from the Lego Movie). I would spend hours in my room crafting complicated narratives around my own creations, including LOTS of spaceships. As an adult, I like building architecture models (and get help from the boys). Recently I had one of my Lego models of the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, in an exhibition of mid-century modern buildings. (The Miller House is an example of American modernism, designed by Eero Saarinen and Associates. A National Historic Landmark, the house and gardens are owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.)
TK: What’s on the horizon for Philbrook?
Stulen: We are excited to open the Native Fashion Now on October 2, which features the original work from over 70 contemporary Native fashion designers representing over 55 nations across North America. Like all installations of Native American art at Philbrook, this exhibition, organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, focuses on the identity and inspiration of Native artists. From haute couture to street wear, today’s Native American fashion design may not be what most visitors expect and we’re excited to be the only venue in the Central U.S. to present this work.
TK: What do you plan to integrate into Philbrook’s programming?
Stulen: Unique and engaging programming is key to attracting new audiences, particularly families. I am hoping we can build on the strong programming at Philbrook and take it to another level over the coming years. Expect more family-friendly performances, interactive programming and mash-ups, seasonal celebrations and maybe even a cat video festival. My goal is to create relevant, exciting exhibitions and programs where families want to visit Philbrook monthly or even weekly.
TK: What does Philbrook offer specifically for kids and families?
Stulen: Philbrook offers free admission to kids daily. Families can pick up self-guided experiences at both locations every day. Every Saturday families can enjoy free hands-on art making activities at the main campus. On the second Saturday of every month, Philbrook offers free admission to everyone. Philbrook enables families to enjoy quality time every time.
TK: What do you hope families and kids will come away with after visiting the museum?
Stulen: I hope that families will think of Philbrook as a welcoming place to learn, gather and have fun. And a place that is relevant to their daily lives and community.
TK: What is Museum Hack and is it something that will be coming to Philbrook soon?
Stulen: Museum Hack is a group based in New York that creates original, and sometimes irreverent tours within museums, sometimes in partnership with museum staff, sometimes not. Their tours are scavenger hunts, history lessons and dance parties smartly stitched together into a highly interactive experience. I have worked with the Museum Hack team in the past and plan to work with them early in my tenure at Philbrook to create an original experience around the art collection and garden. Recently they have been focusing on work with Pokemon Go, which could be interesting to implement depending on how the current trend evolves.
TK: Tell us about your family:
Stulen: My wife Rachel and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in June. We have two kids, Erlend who will turn 6 in October and Oliver who is 20 months old. Erlend will start kindergarten, Oliver day care, and I start at Philbrook on the same day in August. Big day for the Stulen Family! Rachel works full-time for a financial services company and will work remotely from Tulsa.
TK: What does your family enjoy doing in your free time?
Stulen: We love going to the park, riding bikes, visiting museums, finding new restaurants, having impromptu dance parties in the living room, playing music and having family movie nights.
TK: Are your boys into Legos as much as you are?
Stulen: Yes, they have a similar passion for Legos. It was a big moment when I mixed the Legos from my childhood with Erlend’s and we sat down to play together. Now his room is dominated by his Lego adventures. Oliver is still at the Duplo stage, but loves building with his brother.
TK: Once you get settled, what is your family looking forward to visiting around Tulsa?
Stulen: We are eager to check out the food and coffee shop scene, go to the Farmer’s Market on Cherry Street, take the kids to the new children’s garden at the Tulsa Botanical Garden, watch a film onGuthrie Green, attend a Drillers game, see a show at Cain’s Ballroom and of course spend a lot of time at Philbrook meeting the community.
If people want to follow my Lego and museum habits directly, my Instagram account is scottstulen and my Twitter is @middlewest I post often. It’s a great way to get some insight into what we are doing at Philbrook behind the scenes and on my family adventures.