Just Askin’… Steven Knapp
Q: What’s the most interesting thing about your job?
A: Sadly, I was only on the job for six weeks before the pandemic forced us to close our four museums to the public! But I was in the buildings long enough to begin to appreciate the striking differences between the formal kind of education to which I had devoted most of my life and the informal, community-based education that museums uniquely offer. There is an immediacy to encountering fascinating objects and the stories that surround them that makes the museum experience uniquely exciting and inspiring.
Q: What’s the best advice anybody ever gave you?
A: “Don’t get it right; get it done.” That’s probably the advice given by every Ph.D. advisor, and I may just be imagining that I heard it from mine (the esteemed Cornell scholar, M. H. Abrams). It is extremely hard advice to follow!
Q: How do you start the day?
A: Right now, I’m sorry to say that most days start with a quick breakfast followed by the first in a series of Zoom meetings! I look forward to the time, I hope very soon, when I can look forward each morning to what I was just starting when we closed: getting to know my colleagues, finding out what exciting work they’re engaged in, developing partnerships with our neighboring institutions and discovering the ins and outs of what is for me a brand new city with highly distinctive neighborhoods, a fascinating history and probably the friendliest inhabitants I’ve encountered anywhere.
Q: What three attributes do you value most in a person?
A: Kindness, honesty and a sense of humor.
Q: If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
A: That’s a tough one. Brilliant artists, scientists and writers are not always the most engaging dinner partners, and I would probably give a different answer every day you asked. But today, if I thought a dinner conversation might help me understand her: Emily Dickinson.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: Writing (yes, that can be fun); playing music; feeding, housing and keeping track of birds; playing with grandchildren; sometimes, pruning.
Q: What would you change about Pittsburgh?
A: Way too soon to say, but they tell me it can be cloudy…
Q: People would be surprised to know that?
A: We have had a sheep farm (wool exclusively), mostly run by my wife Diane, since 1995. We also have chickens and last year added bees.
Q: What’s the most important thing in life?
A: Gratitude for existence, the attitude from which all other good things flow.
Q: What would your epitaph say?
A: That’s easy. I’m a drummer, and some years ago I had the privilege of spending 20 minutes on stage with the late Washington, D.C. icon Chuck Brown, the “godfather” of a unique style of music known as go-go. I played an extended solo on the conga drums. Afterwards, Chuck came up to me and said, “Man, you’re a great percussionist! I haven’t seen hands that fast since my Calypso days.” So that’s the epitaph: “I haven’t seen hands that fast since my Calypso days.”