Heather Pesanti, who joined the Albright-Knox Art Gallery staff as a curator in 2008, will leave the gallery on Friday to work with former Albright-Knox director Louis Grachos in Austin, Texas.
Pesanti will serve as a senior curator under Grachos at the newly formed institution AMOA/Arthouse, where Grachos started as director this month.
“Buffalo has been amazing to me, but I’m very excited for this new chapter in my life,” Pesanti wrote in an email. “[It] should be a great adventure.”
In her time at the Albright-Knox, Pesanti put her stamp on many ambitious and popular exhibitions. Her largest and most lauded achievement was the 2012 show “Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-garde in the 1970s.”
She began working on the exhibition even before she arrived in Buffalo and spent months digging through the archives of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, CEPA Gallery and other local institutions. Her exhibition catalog for the show serves as a compact compendium of one of the most important periods in Western New York’s artistic history.
“There were several things that happened here [that] nobody talks about having happened in Buffalo,” Pesanti told The News at the time of the show’s opening. “One of my big questions for this whole [catalog] and show was, ‘Why did it happen here?’ And I think, with any big thing that happens, there are so many reasons. It’s like alchemy.”
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center curator John Massier praised Pesanti for her work on the regionwide biennial Beyond/In Western New York and for the energy and new perspective she brought to Western New York when she arrived from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art in 2008.
“Heather definitely hit the ground running after arriving in Buffalo and enthusiastically plunged with the rest of us local curators into the third edition of Beyond/In Western New York,” Massier wrote in an email. “Her big show, ‘Wish You Were Here,’ will remain a huge part of local art history for reminding our community of the dynamic roots of the Buffalo avant garde.”
Pesanti, as one of three main curators at the Albright-Knox, also organized many exhibitions from the gallery’s collection, such as the sprawling “Surveyor” in 2011, and oversaw the gallery’s first “Artist in Depth” exhibition, which explored the careers of Picasso, Braque and Delaunay. In addition, Pesanti oversaw the installation of pieces like Nancy Rubins’ canoe sculpture outside the Elmwood Avenue entrance of the gallery and fostered many new acquisitions.
Beyond that, she was a frequent lecturer in the University at Buffalo’s visual studies department and served as a guest judge and curator for several local exhibitions outside the Albright-Knox.