We wouldn’t be who we are without an amazing support system. Our Griffin State of Mind series features the community of the Griffin Museum. Today’s focus is on Frank Tadley, a beloved museum volunteer and supporter of our exhibitions and programs. Having been with the museum for almost twenty years, he has had a hand in helping visualize the success of the museum, and is one of our pillars of support.
Frank has been there for the Griffin through thick and thin. He’s filled in for almost every job and effort. He’s greeted miles of guests as the monitor manager for our rentals. Every exhibition has his mark on it as he’s hung every installation in all of the galleries over the years. His affable manner has come in handy as he’s greeted museum visitors when staff members vacationed. His technical skills saved us on many occasion when software needed install or the network went down or the fire alarm went off. Frank always knew what to do. He’s researched energy costs and repaired equipment. He’s even spent hours on the telephone on behalf of the museum searching out answers from vendors when none of us had time. Frank Tadley is “a Jack of all trades” and master of every one. He is also the truest of friends and his heart is made of gold.
Describe how you first found the Griffin. How long have you been part of the Griffin community?
I have been active at the Griffin Museum since 2001. My first connection was a show juried by Arthur himself. What a flamboyant character he was. I got second place in architecture and still life. Arthur was real old school. I still have my award placard which he presented to me at the opening. After that show I began to visit and see the different exhibitions. I would see Arthur at places like the CCA where we were both in a show. In June of 2003 there was a call to help install the Babbette Hines show, Photobooth. This was a tricky show to install as the size of the images were small and there were hundreds to install by hand. I was hooked. I volunteered for just about every show thereafter, at all the galleries, until I injured my neck in a gym incident around 2015.
How do you involve photography in your everyday? Can you describe one photograph that recently caught your eye?
I was a student at NESOP in the mid ‘90s in the workshop program so I have been active in photography for a long time. I actually got my start while serving in Vietnam as a medic with a Pentax camera so I was always active with photography. Since I injured my knee in February (reckless I am) I have not been out and about at all. Just before that I saw the Graciela Iturbide exhibition at the MFA and Mujer Ángel, Desierto de Sonora (Angel Woman, Sonoran Desert), 1979 was most moving. Her show is currently at the Women in the Arts National Museum in DC.
What is one of your favorite exhibitions shown by the Griffin?
Since I was involved in so many of the installations it would be difficult to pick just one. Some shows that come to mind were the Civil War, which was an intense show to hang due to the content and we were under a lot of pressure to get it up. Guests were coming up the walkway when we finishing the last details. Museum life is not boring! Another show that was also intense was Susan May Tell’s A Requiem: Tribute to the Spiritual Space at Auschwitz. I created a different way of hanging the large images from the movable walls mimicking the structures in the images.
The immense archive of artists and show that the Griffin has shown is so great for the size of the museum. From many of the famous to new and emerging artists. Being the main installer I was at the intersection of art and the organizational end of museum life. An example was Charles “Teenie” Harris who was a black photographer and staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier. His nick name was “One Shot.” He was a quite the entrepreneur with a portrait business on the side. But the intersection was the quality of his work and the way it was archived at the Carnegie Museum of Art and delivered to the Griffin. They had custom made metal crates with precise sturdy foam inserts to keep each framed photo well protected and yet easy to remove and lay out. And meeting with many of the photographers was a special part of the experience. Some would insist on being present and help with the installation. Two such were Vincent Cianni (WE SKATE HARDCORE) and Stephen Wilkes (Ellis Island) both wonderful photographers and shows. Other shows that stuck with me were Sebastiăo Saligado (Polio) and Lynn Goldsmith (The Looking Glass.) But they all had something to say and it is impossible to pick just one, or two, or three…
What has been the most eye opening part of our time of physical distancing?
The isolation and not knowing the outcome is the most difficult. The economic devastations is crushing for so many and particularly artists.
What is your favorite place to escape to in nature…mountains? beach? woods? and why?
Well I am both a climber/hiker and a sailor so I am drawn to both the lake/sea and the mountains. For the past several years I have been part of a sailing/boating organization on Spot Pond in Stoneham which sounds so local but once you are out on the water, surrounded by the trees and little islands I could be anywhere. I did two series of images, one from Yosemite and the other on Monhegan Island which follow both these places I love.
What is one book, song, or other visual obsession you have at the moment?
I am obsessed with the Takács Quartet’s record of Amy Beach’s Piano Quintet in F sharp minor Op67. An American composer who has not gotten much recognition but very worth a listen.
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a one on one conversation about anything, who would that person be and what would you talk about?
Today that would be John Lewis but that moment is now gone. But it teaches not to put off reaching out and finding our heroes and acting on your instincts.