Kat Zagaria Buckley, new Director of Art Exhibition and Outreach outside of the Art Gallery on the Gorham Campus. Cassandra Regner / Staff Photographer

By: Lydia Simmons, Arts & Culture Editor

For Kat Zagaria Buckley growing up she always had an idea of what she wanted to do in life. Her strong passion for art provided her with direction when it came to her schooling and then later on in the developing of her career. 

Her passion for art was fostered by her mother, a graphic designer. Growing up just outside of New York City in New Jersey, Buckley’s mother would find different art exhibitions for her and the family to go see. About her upbringing in the art world, Buckley said, “Growing up going to galleries so often and going to museums so often it was just always something I did. I was always interested in art and making art myself, but I was especially interested in gallery spaces and exhibitions and navigating them.”

Buckley earned an undergraduate degree of fine arts in art history from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). When speaking about her decision to begin her secondary education here Buckley said, “I picked that program because I really wanted hands-on experience with artistic materials. I think that knowing what you’re dealing with in terms of paintings and mediums makes you a better curator and makes you a better caretaker for the works.” 

After finishing at MICA she worked in museums in Philadelphia where she realized that she needed a masters degree to achieve a curatorial position. She then applied and was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in their art history program, where she attended and earned her masters. Following graduation she worked in libraries, archives, and museums while in Chicago. 

The University of Southern Maine found its way onto Buckley’s radar because of the Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts, as well as the Osher Map Library. When her curatorial fellowship that she had at a museum in Wisconsin was coming to an end Kat found herself in search of a job. A professor who knew she was on the hunt told her about the position listing at USM for a new Director of Art Exhibitions and Outreach, a job in which she eagerly applied for. “I had this feeling ever since I applied, ‘I have a good feeling about this one,’ so that was nice,” she said about her initial reaction to the position and application process.

The fact that the directorial position offered an opportunity for an integrated and interdisciplinary look at the future exhibitions made Buckley’s decision to accept the position when it was offered easy and exciting. About this opportunity to offer unique and inclusive exhibitions Buckley said, “I think that artwork is at its best when you can bring it to someone through another discipline or through an integration with another discipline. When you can help somebody make those different connections.”

The position entails a lot of work, but she is prepared and enthusiastic to take on the new roles and provide a quality art experience for members of the USM community and visitors alike. Buckley runs exhibitions at the Gorham gallery, invites artists and helps manage the USM visiting artists program, and runs the artists in residence program. She also does grant outreach and development work and is responsible for the public art on campus as well as other gallery spaces around the campus. 

Even though the position could sound a bit daunting to her, the position is one that allows her to do work that she is passionate about. “I really do believe that art gives people new experiences and new ways to see things and think about things. So I really like the idea of being a conduit for those experiences,” she said.

Her hope for the future of the gallery is to create a welcoming environment where USM students will be able to gather and appreciate the art. When asked if there was one thing in particular about the position that she found exciting she spoke about getting to work directly with artists. “I think my role as a curator is to really bring artists’ visions to life and to realization and manifestation in the gallery space,” Buckley said.

The fall exhibition at the Gorham Gallery opens Oct. 14 and will run through Dec. 8. The evening of Oct. 14 there will be an opening celebration from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a special talk from the artists.


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