The Art World Works From Home: Aldrich Museum Director Cybele Maylone Is Watching ‘Schitt’s Creek’ and Fretting About Finances

Here's how the museum director is making her way through self-isolation.

The art world may be on lockdown, but it certainly does not stop. During this unprecedented time, we’re checking in with art-world professionals, collectors, and artists to get a glimpse into how they are working from home.

Cybele Maylone has helmed The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, since 2018 and, like many museum directors, now finds herself reimagining what a museum can be. It was supposed to be a big year for The Aldrich, notably including “Frank Stella’s Stars,” a new survey dedicated to the artist, who had one of his earliest museum exhibitions at the institution in a group show 55 years ago.

But Maylone, along with her team, has jumped headfirst into new digital offerings, including a Zoom conversation happening today—which is one our featured editors’ picks for this week’s unmissable virtual art events!—with the museum’s exhibitions director, Richard Klein, who will be sharing stories on the occasion of his 30th work anniversary.

Here, read on to learn how Maylone has adapted to work-from-home life, and what she’s reading, watching, and dreaming of doing post-quarantine.

Where is your new “office”?
My husband and I are taking turns at the desk in our guest room. It’s not the most inviting space in our house, but it has a door that locks, which is key in keeping our daughters off my lap while I’m trying to work. 

Cybele Maylone’s temporary home office. Courtesy of Cybele Maylone.

What are you working on right now (and were any projects of yours interrupted by the lockdown)?
We’re in this strange moment of rescheduling immediate plans. Our next exhibitions, solo shows by Frank Stella and Genesis Belanger, were set to open in May. We’re also, like many institutions across the world, thinking of new and different ways to fulfill our mission during this time. For example, on April 3, our team led a Zoom tour of the exhibition “Weather Report,” followed by a series of art-making activities to support educators and parents at home. We’re truly asking: How can The Aldrich continue to be a platform for artists if one of our biggest tools—the museum itself—is closed? which is such a fascinating and inspiring conversation. I am also, like everyone else in my position, spending a lot of time thinking about our finances and having lots of meetings with the board. We’re grateful for everyone’s support and commitment to our mission.

How has your work changed now that you are doing it from home?
I am inspired and energized by my colleagues, so being alone is strange. But we were all quick adopters of virtual meetings, which has helped a great deal. 

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut. Photo courtesy of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

What are you reading, both online and off?
I am really having to manage my news consumption, because it can really put a massive halt to my productivity (in addition to having a deeply negative impact on my anxiety). In the evenings I am taking heavy dives into fiction. I just finished the novel Pachinko, which was incredibly moving and a great escape.

Have you visited any good virtual exhibitions recently?
I was sorry to not have seen “Vida Americana,” but I just watched the Whitney’s great videos about the show. 

Have you taken up any new hobbies?
It’s not new, but I’m running more than usual. It’s my only opportunity to go outside!

What is the first place you want to travel to once this is over?
To visit my parents in Maine. 

If you are feeling stuck while self-isolating, what’s your best method for getting un-stuck?
For work, I just try to plow through it. It could be incredibly easy to procrastinate right now, but just keeping with a schedule and giving my work the same kind of focus as usual (or perhaps even more…) has created momentum that’s been really important to keep me moving forward. 

What was the last TV show, movie, or YouTube video you watched?
I am the last person on earth to have discovered “Schitt’s Creek,” but it has been a very welcome addition to my quarantine routine!

Genesis Belanger, Cheer Up (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin, Photo: Erik Snyder.

If you could have one famous work of art with you, what would it be?
That’s a tough question and somewhat impossible to answer! The list is too long. That said, we just got amazing images of the work Genesis Belanger is making for her upcoming show at The Aldrich and I would be delighted to have any of these pieces with me right now. One of the works is titled Cheer Up, which feels particularly apt right now.

What are you most looking forward to doing once social distancing has been lifted?
Being with friends and family. And being with art! Technology is making incredible things possible right now, but it’s not the same. We can’t wait to welcome our community back to The Aldrich!

Favorite recipe to cook at home?
My favorite recipe is whatever my husband, who is a fantastic cook, chooses. He recently made this focaccia recipe from Bon Appetit (for a weekday lunch!) and it was incredible. I am all thumbs in the kitchen. 

Some tempting homemade focaccia. Photo by Amy Brothers/The Denver Post via Getty.

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s “Shockingly Easy No-Knead Focaccia“:

  • 1 ¼-oz. envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 5 cups (625 g) all-purpose flour
  • 5 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 Tbsp. Morton kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for hands
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 2–4 garlic cloves

Whisk  dry yeast, honey, and 2½ cups lukewarm water in a medium bowl and let sit 5 minutes. Then, add the all-purpose flour and 5 tsp. salt and mix with a rubber spatula until a “shaggy dough” forms.

Generously butter a 13×9″ baking pan, then pour 1 tbsp. olive oil into center of pan. Using a fork in each hand, gather up edges of dough in the bowl farthest from you and lift up and over into center of bowl. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat process 2 more times to deflate dough while you form it into a rough ball. Transfer dough to the prepared pan and pour over any extra oil. Let rise, uncovered, in a dry, warm spot until doubled in size, at least 1½ hours and up to 4 hours.

Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450°. Lightly oil your hands, and gently stretch out dough to fill your baking pan. Dimple focaccia all over with your fingers, and drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Bake focaccia until puffed and golden brown all over, 20–30 minutes.

When ready to serve, melt 4 tbsp. butter medium heat. Remove from heat. Peel and grate in 2–4 garlic cloves and return to medium heat and cook, stirring often, until garlic is just lightly toasted, 30–45 seconds. Brush garlic-butter all over and enjoy!


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