Kevin Arrow is an artist and a collector, so it may be inevitable that when he joined the staff of Miami’s Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science three years ago, it was as the museum’s art and collection manager. Born in Mineola, New York, and raised in South Florida, Arrow spent 15 years at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in North Miami helping “some of the most amazing artists who are in all the history books” realize their exhibitions.
At the same time, he pursued his own artistic path, doing painting, sculpture and photography; putting together what he believes is “an unrivaled” collection of some 100,000 slides; designing the 200-square-foot glass tile mosaic Beatles Mandala (Amor = Love) at Bandshell Park to commemorate the Beatles’ 1964 visit to Miami Beach.
At the Frost, where he says he was “tasked with being a contemporary art ambassador for the museum,” he has invited artists to look through the vast collection then team up with a scientist for a Curious Vault collaboration like the one University of Miami marine biologist Andrew Baker did with artist Sinisa Kukec using a piece of brain coral. Arrow also won a $15,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant for a program called Science Art Cinema. That collaboration, which takes place Aug. 29 as the final event in the current museum space’s planetarium (the Frost will move to its new complex on Biscayne Boulevard sometime in 2016), has a laser technology theme and involves a film archivist, historic films, a site-specific work involving lasers and six guitarists.
Arrow, 53, has been fascinated by Hieronymous Bosch’s tryptych The Garden of Earthly Delights for more than 30 years (he calls it Bosch’s “hit single,” used to have it as his computer screen saver, and has a framed print and numerous books on it). He loved art as a kid but really connected with it as an adult.
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“I realized I enjoyed seeing how other artists perceive the world,” Arrow says. “Artists have new ways of looking at old things and old ways of looking at new things.”
At the same time, he says, “being an artist is an affliction. You can never turn it off. You’re always having creative ideas. It’s like I’m a self-winding clock.”
Now, he’s in a place where he can keep ticking in unexpected, creative ways.
“It’s unusual for a collection manager to have his feet in these sorts of things,” he acknowledges, adding that former MOCA head Bonnie Clearwater and Frost president Gillian Thomas have supported his ideas.
Their attitude, Arrow says, is this: “If you have someone who thinks outside the box, let him.”