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Mary Anne Goley, Founding Director of the Fine Arts Program of the Fed

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Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford

1a South Parks Road

Oxford

OX1 3UB

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Plenary lecture: 'Playing by the Rules, How I Directed the Fine Arts Program of the Federal Reserve Board, 1975 thru 2006'

Mary Anne Goley

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I brought to the Federal Reserve Board, the U.S. central bank, the tools of my trade learned as an Art History graduate student. They included lessons in connoisseurship, preservation and presentation practices for fine arts, and education through verbal and written skills. My employer was a central bank whose mission was diametrically different from that of an art museum. The Federal Reserve was founded by Congress in 1913 to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and stable monetary and financial system, principally by conducting monetary policy and supervision and regulation of banking institutions.

The motivation for the fine arts initiative was a Memorandum to the Heads of Departments and Agencies dated May 26, 1971, from President Richard M. Nixon. In part, it asked, “How your agency, as part of its various programs, could most vigorously assist the arts and artists.”

Chairman Arthur F. Burns requested a plan of action approved by the Board that called for a collection, a designated space for exhibitions, an outdoor sculpture site, and employee exhibits. An outside group of museum professionals and philanthropists were formalized as the Fine Arts Advisory Panel functioning without fiduciary or governing authority.

My challenge was to integrate museum practices with that of a regulatory agency with rules about conflict of interest. For example, the Fed’s mission had significant impact upon from whom I collected and from whom I borrowed. The key to success in soliciting donations is one’s constituency, but in the case of the Fed our constituency was off limits.

One of the most rewarding developments was the collaboration between the Fed and foreign central banks to host exhibitions in Washington DC during the IMF/World Bank meetings. Fed economists could measure success by improved relations with the foreign central banks. Success for the fine arts program was measured in the public and internal responses to the content of the exhibit. Partnerships with the central banks of Austria, Switzerland, Israel, Poland, Spain, The Netherlands, Romania, and Greece were decided by the ethical litmus test of independence from the shadow of government.

At the end of my 31 years of service under five Chairmen, the Fed’s art collection totaled about 350 works of mostly American art, and over 110 exhibitions had been organized; several, the product of original research. Playing by the rules, without transgressing the ethical constraints imposed by a highly principled U.S. federal agency, the fine arts program strengthened the Fed’s ties to its constituency and added new ones among admirers of the arts.

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Mary Anne Goley was the founding Director of the Fine Arts Program of the Federal Reserve Board (1975 through 2006). She led a 15 member Advisory Panel and liaised with Federal Reserve Board Members and the 36 system wide Bank Presidents and their Directors advising on Board art policy. She was responsible for strategic planning and oversight of all administrative and curatorial functions related to the following: 1) organization of public exhibitions including international collaborations with foreign central banks, 2) exhibition catalogues, 3) development of a permanent collection through gifts, 4) loan program from museums and private collectors, and 5) advising and acquiring contemporary art and site specific commissions for Federal Reserve Banks, including Miami, Jacksonville, Dallas, Birmingham, Cleveland, Atlanta, Houston, and Detroit. J. Carter Brown, Director of the National Gallery of Art, wrote of the Fed’s program, “It is a model for others in our field to see someone take a challenge and make so much of it.”

Organizing over 110 exhibitions, the strategy at the Federal Reserve complemented that of local museums while making contributions to the field as for example The Hague School and Its American Legacy (1982), Post Graffiti/Fine Art (1991), The Influence of Velasquez on Modern Painting, the American Experience (2000), and The Face of Contemporary Art in China (2006). Beginning in 1988 Goley worked with central banks and museums in Austria, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and The Netherlands. Two exhibitions resulted in foreign decorations from The Netherlands and Luxembourg. In 2006 a selection of pieces from the Board’s collection was featured at the European Central Bank.

In 1981 Goley was temporarily assigned to the Presidential Task Force on the Arts and Humanities. In 1990, she concluded six years on the Board of the Arlington Arts Center a regional center for emerging artists – three of them as President. From 1994–1996, Goley served as President of the Association of Professional Art Advisors (APAA), a nationwide standards organization for corporate art advisors. Goley was a member of the Museum Trustee Association (MTA) until 2006. In 2003 she served on a panel for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Save America’s Treasures grant program.

She is an acknowledged expert on the American painters, John W. Alexander and Eduard J. Steichen. She curated Graham Williford’s America (Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas, 2008).

Publications:

Biography of John White Alexander, An American Artist in the Gilded Age (London: PWP Publishers, 2018).

Selected Articles:

Bulletin Musees Royaux des Beaus-Arts de Belgique; Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts; Journal of Industrial Archeology; Wall Street Journal; The Magazine Antiques, Apollo Magazine; Apollo Blog; and Princeton University Library Chronicle.

Press about: New York Times (1982); Wall Street Journal (2004); Vanity Fair (2006), The Art Newspaper (2018); Maine Antique Digest (2018).

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Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford

1a South Parks Road

Oxford

OX1 3UB

United Kingdom

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