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Curator ousted at Kansas State's art museum

Published on -5/21/2012, 2:54 PM

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- The former senior curator at the Beach Museum of Art said he believes his ouster after nearly two decades on the job signals a shift away from expanding the collection at the institution on the Kansas State University campus -- a charge that university officials deny.

Bill North, who quadrupled the size of the Beach collection during his tenure that started in 1995, said he was told in March that he was should start a yearlong research project but that he would no longer represent the museum or the university, The Manhattan Mercury reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/vURbFW ).

North said he was given no explanation for his dismissal, but that he believes the museum wants to focus more on programming than collecting art.

"For whatever reason, I don't fit into somebody's plan for the future of the museum," North said. "They clearly wanted me out."

Kansas State president Kirk Schulz denied any major changes are planned.

"The museum's direction has not changed a bit," Schulz said. "We still want to focus on Kansas art and Midwest art."

Linda Duke, who became museum director in 2011, said better programming and marketing is a priority and that more fundraising will help support both missions.

"The Beach is a strong collecting institution," Duke said. "The logical next step is to make more of an effort to share that with the public. But that is not to say that it should be done at the expense of other things that the museum has been doing."

Schulz said he did not know whether North would be replaced at the museum.

North said he's pursuing the research project as suggested and hopes to find "a similar position at a similar institution." He said he doesn't plan to sue or file a grievance against the university because further conflict would only hurt the museum.

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