MILLEDGEVILLE — The Flannery O’Connor-Andalusia Foundation Board of Directors recently announced Elizabeth Wylie as the new executive director at Andalusia.
As an O’Connor fan, preservationist and environmentalist, Wylie anxiously awaits opportunities for engagement, collaboration and inspiration.
“(Flannery O’Connor) is a national and international brand. I’d like to see how we can activate the place with local participation in some way,” Wylie said.
A spur of the moment Oct. 18 interview landed the museum expert a fresh challenge.
“I live in Boston and grew up in Oklahoma, so moving to Georgia is such a culture shock for me. I’m just learning about the area, and it’s beautiful,” Wylie said. “I was at a point in my life where I wanted an adventure. I like to travel and see different places, so why not?”
Wylie served as the director of Business Development for Finegold Alexander + Associates in Boston from 2008 to 2012. Work as a private consultant providing strategy, marketing, development and sustainability planning for museum, cultural, conservation and preservation organizations and associated industries make her quite an Andalusia catch. Wylie has held upper-level administrative positions at the Boston Center for the Arts, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence and the Aidekman Art Center at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
She co-authored “The Green Museum: A Primer on Environmental Practice” that offers a complete handbook to guide museum staff in incorporating green design into new construction and day-to-day operations.
“There’s over 500 acres here, and we’ve got to be responsible stewards,” the new director said.
She sees creativity and innovation garnering attention and support for the Flannery O’Connor touch.
“The preservation community has begun to understand that preservation and access are a balancing act. The building can fall down while you are being all fussy about the stick off wood,” Wylie said. “Times have changed. In order for something to be supported, it has to be used and loved. People love this place, and I’d like to take advantage of that promoting active use of the site.”
Andalusia could use the notable writer platform and natural setting to help local literacy.
O’Connor recently brought a group from Baghdad to Milledgeville. Captivating people enough to generate multiple trips back is a challenge.
“People come from all over the world to see Flannery O’Connor’s Andalusia. They come to Milledgeville, spend money and they check it off their bucket list,” Wylie said. “Of course you value and want to keep promoting that, but you also need to ensure that you have repeat visitation. That’s where activating the site, collaboration and partnerships with local folks comes into play.”
Wylie succeeds Craig Amason, who became the inaugural executive director in 2002 charged with watchdog status over the farmland, numerous decrepit outbuildings, a weary farmhouse and the towering reputation of Flannery O’Connor.
During his tenure, Amason raised $1.5 million from foundations and legions of individual donors.
He and part-time helper Mark Jurgensen oversaw restoration of the iris beds, the pond, the water tower, the pump house, the milk-processing shed, and most recently the Hill house, with the cow barn currently in process.
“He’s a hero and had done a great job,” Wylie said. “I really appreciate everything he’s done. Craig has set us up nicely.”
The Flannery O’Connor-Andalusia Foundation is dedicated to the restoration, preservation and appreciation of Andalusia, the final home of Flannery O’Connor, to perpetuate her place in the roster of great writers of the 20th century, according to Andalusia’s website.
The new caretaker said the property remains a living and breathing place.
“Andalusia is alive and well,” Wylie said. “It’s evolving and adapting. My job is to build on all the good work (Amason) has done.”
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