Alyssa Cordova spent years in Southern California’s gallery and museum scene, serving various roles at respected institutions. And while that experience is undoubtedly useful in her new position as executive director of the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell, she points to two other helpful attributes: she’s a Montana native who loves and understands the Treasure State, and she’s an artist herself.
“I’ve found that my background as an artist has served me well in so many ways,” she said, noting that curators traditionally often have an art history background. “I can speak the language.”
As a busy mother of two kids, Cordova does less of her own art these days, but says her “artistic outlet is supporting artists.” In her new job, which she started on Nov. 1, she is now well-positioned to support a broad community of artists in Northwest Montana. She feels fortunate to have landed at the Hockaday, a cornerstone of the Flathead Valley arts scene that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
“I’m really excited to be at the Hockaday,” she said. “This museum has a rich history and is very well-loved in this community.”
After studying sculpture at Biola University in California, Cordova served multiple roles at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana and then most recently spent six years at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, where she was assistant curator. She also has a master’s degree in exhibition design and museum studies from California State University, Fullerton.
But her childhood growing up in Great Falls left her wanting to return to Montana, and she jumped at the Hockaday opportunity.
“I always had in the back of my mind this dream to find a way to bring back what I’ve learned in my education and experience working in other art galleries and museums to help Montana artists, especially emerging artists or younger artists,” she said.
In addition to her museum and art experience, Cordova said she draws inspiration from unlikely portions of her biography, such as her time as a supervisor at Starbucks.
“This is such an interesting field, and you have to wear all these different hats and bring in a wide variety of these quirky skillsets to make the programs run,” she said. “In this job, I’m a little bit of everything.”
Hockaday board president Robin Bailey said Cordova “brings excellent museum experience” from her roles in Southern California and is well-equipped to guide the museum as it begins “its next 50 years.”
“Born and raised in Montana, Alyssa embodies Montana’s can-do attitude and offers new ideas for increasing the Hockaday’s impact in the Northwest,” Bailey said.
Cordova hopes to build on the museum’s rich traditions and explore ways to broaden its cultural footprint across a wide swath of demographics, including by focusing on partnerships with cultural and educational institutions throughout the area, such as Flathead Valley Community College.
“I really like the idea of being a good neighbor and thinking, ‘How we can share resources? How we can collaborate?’” she said. “And I like the idea of thinking a little outside the box for programming to grow our audience here.”
The Hockaday is holding its annual community free day and open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 30. There will be free admission, refreshments, children’s activities, a docent tour and an introduction to Cordova at 1 p.m.
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