The Art of Shopping Requires a Mindful Manager

Anna Kern tackles museum-like job at legendary NorthPark Center

With its museum-like layout and sophisticated sculptures, murals, and paintings by known artists, NorthPark Center staffs a position many other malls wouldn’t need: a manager of arts programming.

Anna Kern

“I do all the work that entails doing the artwork,” said Anna Kern, who’s held that job for nearly three of her four years at NorthPark.

With more than 50 major sculptures and seven to eight art exhibitions a year, Kern must make sure valuable artwork gets handled and put up carefully. Assembling a new piece can take 30 minutes to eight hours to even multiple days.

“Anything that we put up, we have to be very mindful, and we have to make sure it has an appeal to the general public and that they can get something out of it,” she said.

Though now the sole member of NorthPark’s art department, Kern works closely with the marketing team to see that visitors can enjoy the magnificent art, architecture, and landscaping.

“We have to make sure it has an appeal to the general public and that they can get something out of it.”

Anna Kern

Think of NorthPark as a museum where you can also shop.

The mall supports local and recent art as well as such established artists as Andy Warhol, Barry Flanagan, and Joel Shapiro, who are all among those with permanent installations at the center.

“The aesthetic is so crucial to our reputation,” Kern said. “NorthPark is always spotless.”

She cherishes NorthPark’s pop-up programs featuring local and regional artists, often as extensions to murals and usually used at empty stores, instead of leaving a blank spot.

“All our institutions should support local art,” Kern said. “At NorthPark, I want to make sure that we support that. We want people to feel invited and feel welcome. We want to give back to our community.”

NorthPark also supports the community through partnerships year-round, including an art gala to raise funds for the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center.

Kern also takes care of hosting tours and the Art Rock program for children. Both switched online due to COVID-19.

“My favorite part at the end of the day is that we’re a shopping center, so we get people from all walks of life,” she said. “They’re exposed to these collections, local artists, and even if it’s just subconsciously in the background, this will impact them in a small way.”


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