Transitions: Spring 2019
Gomez, Czelsi

Transitions: Spring 2019

Welcome to Susan Barnett of Erie, PA, who has accepted the position of curator at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings. “We are pleased to hire Susan after a lengthy national search, and we are happy to announce that this is a homecoming for her,” said YAM Executive Director Bryan W. Knicely.

Although she spent the past 16 years in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Montana is still the place she calls home. Barnett discovered her passion for curatorial work as a student at Montana State University in Bozeman.

After earning her Bachelor in Fine Art – Printmaking, she was hired as director and curator of Anaconda’s Copper Village Museum and Art Center. She founded and managed a gallery in Butte for 14 years before moving to Wisconsin. There, she served as executive director and curator for the Cedarburg Cultural Center, managed a private art collection, and worked on an exhibition and publication commemorating 40 years of the Kohler Arts/Industry program. Since 2017, as curator of the Erie Art Museum in Erie, PA, she has organized more than 20 exhibitions and cared for a collection of 8,000 objects.

 Barnett earned an MA in Art History and a Certificate in Museum Studies from UW-Milwaukee. Her research areas include contemporary art, studio craft, American art and history, and non-Western art.

“The mission of the Yellowstone Art Museum resonates with my appreciation of art both as a historic document that reflects a community and the social glue that binds it,” Barnett said.

She points out that YAM not only exhibits, interprets, collects, and preserves art, it also strives to achieve enrichment, education, inspiration, and enjoyment for all. “This requires a commitment to welcoming people of all backgrounds, connecting programming with curriculum and funding, engaging people who don’t think art is for them, breaking down perceptions of elitism, and making exhibitions both scholarly and fun,” she says. “I look forward to the challenge.”

Barnett was in town in early March for the Yellowstone Art Auction 51, and returns to begin work in the office by April 1.


So long and best wishes to Jim Meinert, who is retiring after serving as director of The History Museum in Great Falls for the last nine years, and welcome to Kristi Scott, who has been hired as the new director and she begins work at the museum March 18.

“Her appointment to this position was an outstanding choice by the museum’s board of directors,” Meinert said in a release. Scott served as curator of art for Paris Gibson Square Museum for the last five years and before that as development director for the Ursuline Historical Foundation.

She’s a graduate of C.M. Russell High School in Great Falls and earned an undergraduate degree in anthropology and a graduate degree in Native American studies from Montana State University. Her master’s thesis was based upon her work at the Smithsonian Institute in Museum Anthropology.

“I am excited and honored to serve as the director of The History Museum, continuing its role as the ‘People’s Museum’ and strengthening our role in contemporary culture,” Scott said in a release. “History plays an important part within any community and we are so fortunate that ours is rich with local and national significance.”


Welcome to Ignacio Barrón Viela, the new executive director of the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale. Originally from Spain, Viela was born in Zaragoza, where he studied music and engineering. He is a classically trained cellist and was a cellist while serving as General Orchestra Manager of the Heinrich Heine Orchestra in Dusseldorf, Germany. He was also principal cellist with the Nottingham Philharmonic Orchestra in the UK. Recently, he was a member of the USC Orchestra in Los Angeles, CA. Barrón Viela has spent more than ten years playing in orchestras and managing music projects worldwide. During his tenure with the Heinrich Heine Orchestra, he was responsible for all aspects of the orchestra’s operations, fundraising, finances, budgeting and planning, as well as coordination of international orchestra tours, concert programs and participation in international festivals.

Barrón Viela recently completed the International MBA program at the University of Southern California, where he supported the administrative staff of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association in planning and staging events. He was selected to participate in the Essentials of Orchestra Management course, which is run by the League of American Orchestras and is regarded as the world’s gold standard of orchestra management training.

“There were a lot of different options around the world, but there was something that hooked me here,” he told the Billings Gazette. “The genuineness of the people, the hospitality I received, the openness … My personality fit well.”

Barrón Viela recognizes the Symphony as a cultural partner for the city. “Our mission is to enrich life with music, for people of all different levels,” he said, noting the organization’s work in the Montana Women’s Prison and the education outreach program that reaches more than 35,000 students each year, as well as Symphony in the Park that brings classical music to thousands of Billings residents for free each year.

Barrón Viela said he was excited to find a position that matches his passion for a leadership career with a symphony and chorale, and is already enjoying the spaciousness of his new home. “I love nature. I love places where maybe it’s a little calmer,” he told the Gazette

He looks forward to taking the symphony “to a new level” – which includes extending educational outreach and building audience numbers, especially with younger people. “It’s not only about the concert; it’s about the experience, and what happens before, during and after the concert,” he told the Gazette.




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