Art Works Blog

Inside the NEA: Getting to Know Patricia Loiko

Patricia Loiko. Photo by Darrell Green

A veteran of the equally venerable Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Patricia Loiko joined the NEA last week as our new Indemnity Administrator. In her new position, the New England native takes responsibility for overseeing the federal Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program, which helps to insure both international exhibitions traveling to the U.S. as well as domestic shows. What exactly is Loiko taking on in her new position? Well, let's just say that without the program, U.S. audiences might never have seen many high-profile works by European artists such as Pablo Picasso or Michelango nor would they have seen relics from King Tut's tomb or the Dead Sea scrolls. As Loiko wrapped up her first week with us, we found out when she was bitten by the "arts bug," what she has posted above her desk, and just how much she likes seafood!

NEA: In five words or less, who is Patricia Loiko?

PATRICIA LOIKO: Interested in so many things.

NEA: What do you remember as your first/earliest engagement in the arts?

LOIKO: My first trip to an art museum---and not until I was a teenager---was monumental in many ways, especially since it was The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was staggered by the experience. My artistic abilities are non-existent (unless you count making macaroni heads on cardboard), and forever I am in awe with what people can create with their bodies and minds.

NEA: What are you most looking forward to about living in the Washington, DC metro area?

LOIKO: Fresh(er) seafood! I grew up along the coast in Connecticut, then went to college in Boston, where I stayed for the next thirty years while working at the Museum of Fine Arts. Moving to Chicago four years ago was a fabulous experience, but that lake is not the ocean. In New England, lobsters jump into your car while you wait for the light to turn green. Twice each year I made a pilgrimage “back East” just to have fried clams (an acquired taste, I realize). And the DC regional arts scene, of course. I can’t wait to start exploring.

NEA: What will you miss most about Chicago?

LOIKO: What a terrific city. Despite its size, Chicago is amazingly comfortable and convenient, especially by public transportation (I think I’ve driven my car here more in the past few weeks than during most of time in the Midwest). It’s known for its rich architectural history, and does not disappoint. I worked adjacent to Millennium Park and Grant Park, which were particularly lively in the summer. If there is a category to celebrate, Chicago will have a “palooza” for it.

NEA: What do you hope to learn while you're at the NEA?

LOIKO: I haven’t had a full understanding of the agency beyond that it provides much needed grants and awards to enhance the arts throughout the country. I am excited, and honored, now to be in a position to experience its inner mechanisms first hand, especially the programs in addition to indemnity.

NEA: What do you hope to accomplish while you're at the NEA?

LOIKO: I am very fortunate to have experienced the indemnity process as a museum applicant (happily, all submissions were successful ones), as well as serve as the registrar on the Indemnity Advisory Panel for international exhibitions. Indemnity can be a bit daunting, especially to first-time applicants, and so one goal is to expand upon the amazing foundation of the program to identify ways to streamline procedures and find more efficiencies.

NEA: What are you most proud of accomplishing in your museums career to date?

LOIKO: Museum registrars are so lucky---they see, touch, and deal with artwork in all categories, yet don’t have to judge it. It could be a Monet, or a painting on velvet of dogs playing poker---each is treated with equal care (and love!) to preserve and protect it. My career of several decades has offered me opportunities to work with unparalleled collections, and collectors, scholars, and colleagues, with each project as exciting and educational as the next. And traveling around the world as a courier accompanying art was simply a dream. I am proud to have served the museum community, and the field through professional development. I am most pleased that, from my first museum job as a wide-eyed Federal Work/Study kid in the slide library of the MFA Boston, to the chair in which I sit today, my passion has not dwindled.

NEA: Which contemporary artist---visual or otherwise---do you secretly hope you run into in the elevator or the halls while you're here? (And why?)

LOIKO: Isn’t that like asking which child is your favorite? If I have to choose, it would be Richard Estes (he’s 80 now). I’ve always been mesmerized by his photorealism (again my wonderment---how does he make paint do that??). I think the precision speaks to my obsession with things being organized (yes, my spices are in alphabetical order).

NEA: What would people be most surprised to learn about you?

LOIKO: I entered college as a physical therapy major. For a required humanities credit, I took Art Appreciation. I was hooked. At the end of the semester I told my parents that I wanted to switch my studies to art history, and they asked what the heck I would do with a degree in that. I admitted that I had no idea but it just felt right. I’ve been working in the arts ever since.

NEA: What does "Art Works" mean to you?

LOIKO: Excitedly, the next chapter in my life.

NEA: Any last words?

LOIKO: I’ve had this Oscar Wilde quote over my desk for as long as I can remember:  “Art is not a thing, it is a way.”

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