Former IA Cong. Jim Leach Is "Perfect" to Lead UIMA

Feb 15, 2017

As art from the University of Iowa tours Europe, the leadership at the art museum in Iowa City has changed. More than eight years after the Iowa River flooded the old art museum, former Congressman Jim Leach is serving as Interim Director.  Michelle O'Neill reports that former UIMA Director, Sean O'Harrow, can't think of a better person to be at the helm, as the university begins the process of building a new art museum.

Summary

"Abstract Expressionism," an exhibition at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, features a collection of paintings from the University of Iowa Museum of Art, including Jackson Pollock's Mural.

Former Director Sean O'Harrow says a large part of the museum's entire collection is stored (and on display) at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport. But eventually, they will all return to a new, permanent home on the Iowa City campus.

The new museum will be a complicated piece of technology with a lot of requirements. He and architects from BNIM, based in Des Moines and Kansas City, already worked on the plans for spaces in the new art museum, and the centerpiece will be Pollock's Mural.

The person responsible for getting it built, and paid for, is Jim Leach who was named Interim Director in November. University of Iowa law and political science students know him as Professor Leach. But from 2009 through 2013, he served as Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Interim Director of the UI Museum of Art, Jim Leach
Credit submitted / University of Iowa

Leach is excited about overseeing construction of the $45-50 million art museum, saying it's uplifting, challenging, and fun. It will be built south of the library with a bridge or "umbilical cord" between the two buildings. The visiting professor and former congressman says one wing will be set aside for people to study the holocaust through art.

Other strengths of the UIMA include its African collection of art, made possible by the Stanley family of Muscatine, and its collection of modern European art. And Leach is confident people from all over the country will visit once the new museum is built.

In the meantime, if you happen to be in Spain, Abstract Expressionism, including Pollock's "Mural" will be at the Guggenheim until June 4th, 2017. And those of us in the Midwest can see many works from the University of Iowa's collection at the Figge in Davenport and the Iowa Memorial Union, in Iowa City.