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Artful Admirer

Carey Mack Weber is one of Connecticut's greatest art champions

Carey Mack Weber is not an artist.

“I had to take a studio art class in college and… I can’t create art,” she freely admits. “That’s why I have the most incredible admiration for people who can. And I feel like the luckiest person in the world, doing what I do.”

Actually, admiration is a lot of what the longtime Westport resident does – and has done extremely well for decades as a leader on the Connecticut art scene. While she might not consider herself an artist, the current Frank and Clara Meditz executive director of Fairfield University Art Museum (FUAM) and president of Connecticut Art Trail is certainly blessed with a keen eye for spotting talent and a creative mind for bringing it to art lovers across the region and around the world.

Executive director since 2019, Carey has curated or co-curated 16 exhibitions at Fairfield, ranging in diversity from the highly collaborative “Birds of the Northeast: Gulls to Great Auks” to the edgy “Not Ready to Make Nice-The Guerrilla Girls in the Artworld and Beyond.” Last semester’s “In Real Time - Arthur Szyk: Artist and Soldier for Human Rights,” which she was instrumental in bringing to campus, proved a smash hit, bringing more than 4,500 people into the university galleries to view the exhibition and attend lectures and discussions while attracting more than 33,000 worldwide for virtual tours and recorded programs.

“This fall has been a whirlwind,” she says. “It’s done what we expected. It’s been the second biggest exhibition we’ve ever had. It’s just been great!”

Born into an art-loving, museum-going family in Massachusetts, Carey fell in love with art as a teen and secured internships when she was still in high school.

“That really stoked the fire,” she says.

Earning her art history degree from Connecticut College, she soon found herself as a registrar and then gallery director at New York City hot spots like Susan Sheehan Gallery and Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art. Graduate school called, but she decided to let it ring and stayed on in the city.

“It was so much darn fun,” she says of working in galleries.

Having moved to Westport, where she and her husband Doug Weber, founder and publisher of Westport Journal, raised their two daughters, she jumped at the chance to work with Fairfield University’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, which put her on campus at a pivotal time. In 2010, the university unveiled the Bellarmine Museum of Art, where she assisted the founding director, Jill Deupi, Ph.D., in creating the first four years of exhibitions and programming, honing her skills at running what would, with the Quick Center for the Arts’ Walsh Art Gallery, become a key building block of FUAM. 

Being on a college campus has been a boon for Carey, who is able to collaborate with faculty and experts to create exhibitions that draw in the public while providing fertile ground for exploration by students. The bird exhibition included companion lectures and workshops with biology faculty while the museum’s most popular exhibition, “Art of the Gesù: Bernini and his Age,” brought together for the first time dazzling and historically important works never lent to America that told the story of the rise of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit founders of Fairfield University.

“Everyone gets involved in every part of it,” she says of organizing an exhibition on a college campus. “And you get to learn about world history through the lens of art.”

As president of the Connecticut Art Trail, Carey is arguably the head cheerleader for state artists, museums and galleries. The nonprofit is a nationally recognized collection of 24 world-class museums, nature centers and historic sites that promote Connecticut’s cultural sites as part of a travel experience for locals and visitors alike.

“Being in Westport, I always say you don’t always need to turn right,” she says with a laugh. “Sometimes you can turn left or north. Not all the great art is in New York City. There are great museums in Connecticut. They are one of the state’s greatest assets.”

In fact, Connecticut boasts two of America’s oldest museums in Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven. She’s thrilled with the new renovations at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich and the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield is a wonderful place to get to know emerging and contemporary creators.

Of course, her hometown is no slouch when it comes to creativity – with MoCA Westport, galleries and the rich tradition of artists and illustrators who made their homes here. The town’s reputation as a haven for the imaginative is well deserved, she says. The Westport Library and the Westport Public Art Collections both have enviable and active art programs, as do the public schools her daughters attended. 

“I don’t know of any other school system that has the programs that Westport does,” she says.

During the pandemic years, art institutions around the world shut their doors and faced a crucial dilemma: Pivot or perish. Carey and her team – who were already offering digital events – beefed up their online features to wildly positive results. FUAM offers everything from virtual tours and interactive lunch-and-learn discussions to online mindfulness meditation sessions based in the galleries, and all of their exhibition materials are available in Spanish to increase accessibility.

“When we reopened, we were committed to presenting everything we possibly could in a hybrid way - both in-person and virtual,” she says. “Our audience definitely grew to a global audience. They found us and stayed with us – and we’re going to stay with them.” 

Carey Mack Weber is blessed with a keen eye for spotting talent and a creative mind for bringing it to art lovers across the region and around the world.

“Not all the great art is in New York City. There are great museums in Connecticut. They are one of the state’s greatest assets.”

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