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Ten Minutes With the Aldrich Museum Director–Cybele Maylone

Cybele Maylone has been executive director of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum since September, having previously led UrbanGlass, where she was named to the Brooklyn 100 by Brooklyn Magazine, and before that she held a variety of positions at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. She has a MA in arts administration from Columbia University and lives in town with her husband Steven Seltz and two children, Marina and Amalia. We talked in the Aldrich offices on Main Street.

What does contemporary art mean?
Art of the moment. All art that we know was contemporary in its time. Impressionism was scandalous. What defines contemporary art to me is intention. People say “My child could have drawn that” about a piece that seems mysterious to them. Work of the now and work with intention is how I think about contemporary art.

Do most people in Ridgefield understand that?
I have heard great enthusiasm about the museum, including from people who are perplexed. We are causing people to scratch their heads a bit. If we give people what they expect to see, we would not be doing our job correctly.

What would museum founder Larry Aldrich think of today’s Aldrich Museum?
He would be pleased. He had nine lives—his interests constantly changed. And he really liked art made by living artists. He was quite a presence here, driving around town in a car painted by an artist.

How critical is it not to have a permanent collection?
It allows us to truly maintain the experience of the now. People love to see their favorite work over and over; you will never have that experience at the Aldrich. Every time you come here you will see something new.

Who do your curators have in mind when selecting works?
A few broad themes: Significant emerging artists who have never had a museum exhibition. N. Dash, on display now, has been in commercial galleries but never had a museum presentation of this scope. Many now-well-known artists had their very first presentations at the Aldrich: Eva Hesse, Frank Stella, KAWS among others. Also, mid- and late-career artists who have not had the exposure their work deserves. Next are group exhibitions that explore themes. These are often populated by living artists having their first museum exposure.

What is your biggest challenge?
To ensure that the museum presents itself as open and accessible. We want to be as welcoming to the local school group as we are to the visitors from Massachusetts. And fundraising: ensuring the museum has the financial resources to sustain this work.

How does living in the community affect how you view the Aldrich’s road ahead?
The best way to learn about the town is to live here. As a working mom, living here makes it possible to walk to Veterans Park school for 20 minutes or to walk home. Ridgefield is a very nice place to live. I have met many interesting people.

Ok. Tell me about your name.
My impossible name! My mom lived in Turkey, and Cybele is a mythological figure. It’s pronounced Sa-bell. Then May-lone. Everyone I encounter has to learn my name.

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