Meet The Face Behind NSU Art Museum’s One East Society
By Eric Barton, Gold Coast Fort Lauderdale
We’ve only been talking for a couple of minutes when McHenley Castillo begins to tear up. He’s embarrassed about it, maybe because he’s sitting in the office of his unflappable boss, who’s sitting right across from him.
His boss, Bonnie Clearwater, the executive director and chief curator of the NSU Art Museum, runs out to fetch Castillo a box of tissues. He grabs one and dabs at his eyes.
“Sorry,” he says, “I wasn’t expecting that.” We had begun to talk about his grandmother. He’d see her when his family went to Colombia when he was a kid, and he would always marvel at her collection of art on the walls. It wouldn’t be until years later that he found out she had painted them. By then, it was too late.
“She hasn’t been well for some time,” Castillo says, wiping away a new round of tears. “I never got a chance to ask her about her paintings.”
Maybe, he wonders now, if his grandmother’s artistic side is what inspired his own. Growing up in Oakland Park, Castillo attended art schools starting with North Andrews Gardens Elementary through Dillard High, concentrating on the clarinet. He has an associate’s degree from Broward College, a bachelor’s in marketing from Florida International University, and is now working on an MBA at Nova Southeastern University.
While Castillo’s clarinet performances are behind him, he now spends his days planning the future of art in South Florida. He heads NSU Art Museum’s new young professionals group, the One East Society, which has plans to become a regional breeding ground for the artistic, the adventurous and the soon-to-be-if-not-already influential.
The organization is something Clearwater intended to create not long after she took over at the museum six years ago. She had done the same thing at her old job, running the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and forming the MOCA Shakers. It’s not that young professional groups bring in money for museums—generally they’ll cost more to operate. It’s more about planning for the museum’s future. “You need to see it as the pipeline,” Clearwater says.
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