Kathleen Hickey Barrie NC’72, P’98
Be imaginative at BC
As an art and art history major at Newton College, Kathy Barrie couldn’t have imagined her own future career. “Everything was changing then, for women, and in the culture as a whole,” she remembers. “We really could have had no idea what would be open to us.”
Barrie crafted a career imagining the unexpected, from including art installations in civic projects to developing museums illuminating surprising areas of cultural history. Most recently, she has been the developer and curator of the newly opened National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement –familiarly known as the Mob Museum—in Las Vegas. Barrie Projects, the consulting firm she runs with her husband, Dennis, also developed the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Previously, she founded and ran Cleveland Public Art (now LAND Studio), advocating for civic art projects.
She believes her Newton College education gave her a broad base of cultural knowledge, vital research and analysis skills, and a lifelong enthusiasm for learning new things.
“The Study of Western Culture curriculum—we called it SWC—was so daunting then, but I’m forever grateful for it. We started with the big bang theory and studied everything up to what was happening in Vietnam,” she recalls. “It prepared me for a number of things I never, ever thought I’d have to be prepared for!”
What has been the most satisfying moment in your professional life?
There hasn’t been just one! Every time a project opens, and people come to see it and go through the exhibits that the team has worked so hard on, it’s just thrilling. Until the people walk through the first time, you don’t know how it will all work.
In your personal life?
The birth of my children, Monica ’98, Conor, and Roger.
What is your next goal?
Good question! I am not quite finished with this project, so I don’t know what’s next. But I look forward to finding another project I can’t even see coming but that puts me in touch with a whole new group of interesting, talented people.
What is the secret to success?
Hard work and putting in the time. I very much enjoy working collaboratively, and I find that working with a good group of people who are respectful, provocative, and enjoy challenge leads to success.
Why did you decide to attend Newton College?
I was attracted to the location, the exciting and beautiful city of Boston; I knew it had a reputation for academic rigor; and a number of my friends were headed there.
What is one thing everyone should do while they are at Boston College?
Really get to know the city and its neighborhoods. See as much of it as you can, and make it your own. Boston is such a layered place, with more American history that you’d think could be packed into one city.
What is your fondest Newton College memory?
The people I went to school with. We’ve stayed friends. It was a great group of people.
Where is your favorite spot on the Heights?
The cemetery on Center Street, across from Newton Campus.
Where did you live freshman year?
Hah! Well. The cab pulled in and asked where to find Keyes North, the dorm I’d been assigned. And it hadn’t been built yet. That was a day of surprises! We were housed in an administration building until sometime in the spring when the dorm was finally finished.
What was your favorite class?
In addition to the SWC curriculum, I loved all the art and art history classes. We had an artist in residence for a while, Norman LaLiberte. He taught classes with names like “Grope” that really challenged one’s artistic sensibilities.
What was your favorite Newton College activity?
While I was in college, my favorite thing to do was walk to the T stop and see where I could go, how far I could get on the subway or train, and explore the neighborhood I found.
What was your first job?
I worked in the art department at Northwestern University, as an administrative assistant. Next, I worked in museum education at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
How have you changed since graduation?
Basically, I haven’t changed. I got on a trajectory at Newton College where I enjoyed exploring topics and embracing new things, and that hasn’t changed. I have more confidence, and I’m a wife and mother who’s lived all over now, with more experience, but I still have a child-like delight in new things.
How do you relax?
I garden, I walk the beach, and I visit cities and look around.
What do you look forward to each day?
Seeing the sun, having that first cup of coffee with the newspaper, and seeing what’s new in my inbox—what new possibility is opening up.
What is something your friends don’t know about you?
There’s nothing they don’t know! (And they know who they are!)
Who would play you in the film version of your life?