Michele Cairella Fillmore is the new curator and director of the W. Keith and Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery as well as the new Huntley Art Gallery.
She came to Cal Poly Pomona from the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she served as art consultant and curator for the district’s large Art & Artifact Collection & Archives. Previously, she was the collection manager at the Museum of Latin American Art, gallery director and art history instructor at Fullerton College, and manager of her own arts consultation network known as caire/larts.
“We were looking for a museum professional who has a strong background organizing a collection and who can work well in a university environment,” says Dean Michael Woo, “and Michele fits our needs perfectly.”
Woo announced Cairella Fillmore’s appointment at the Nov. 8 gala opening of the Huntley Gallery, an arts showcase and presentation area on the fourth floor of the University Library. The gallery will provide a home for the Don Huntley Western Art Collection. It will also be used to host lectures and guest speakers, and give budding artists a place to display their creations. A gift from longtime benefactor Don Huntley created the space.
Cairella Fillmore’s passion for art grew during a life-changing internship in Europe. While earning a degree in advertising management and international business at Cal State Fullerton, she traveled to Italy for a three-month internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Because of her grasp of Italian and her public relations skills, the internship was extended to nine months to allow her to assist in the events surrounding the Venice Art Biennial and the opening of Guggenheim Berlin and Bilbao in 1997.
“My experience in Italy was life-changing,” she says. “It solidified my decision to dedicate myself to art, its history and its preservation. Surrounded by ancient Roman ruins, the remnants of the glorious Florentine Renaissance, and the rich history of Venetian architecture with its Moorish influences, I realized how each culture’s surroundings are simply a reflection of the historical and societal influences that transform it over time. Visual art and architecture are the fossils that will remain of us once we are gone.”
Among Cairella Fillmore’s goals on campus are curating shows that make viewers stop, think, discuss and want to know more. She also wants to curate exhibits that reflect how design, architecture and space define our environment.
“I am very enthusiastic about the new Huntley Gallery and its potential for smaller, more intimate shows of emerging and mid-career artists,” she says.
She also plans to support the legacy of the Huntley Gallery by regularly including the Huntley Western Art Collection and the college’s own permanent collection.
Cairella Fillmore says she is in talks with renowned artists to curate and bring their shows to the Kellogg University Art Gallery in 2015, including Chicano artist Frank Romero and Los Angeles-based Jim Morphesis, whose face is immortalized in the Kent Twitchell mural alongside the Hollywood Freeway in downtown Los Angeles.
She wants the galleries to be resources for the art department and the College of Environmental Design, as well as welcoming places for the entire campus community.
“My plan is to curate art exhibitions that address some of the poignant topics of today, including agricultural sustainability, consumerism and materialism, literature and poetry — most anything that involves the human experience,” Cairella Fillmore says. “Art is a reflection of what is around us, and we can all benefit from the dialog and shared experience that is visual art.”