Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Future Curators Teen Program

Real Clear Arts' Judith Dobrzynski points us to what may well be the first program of its kind designed to nurture the curators of tomorrow. And it's happening, not in NYC or LA, but in Buffalo:
Remember "Future Teachers of America," "Future Farmers of America," and "Future Scientists and Engineers of America"?

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery has a program that should evolve into "Future Curators of America."

Now in its fourth year, the after-school program engages 11th and 12th graders from area schools, selected from a pool of applicants. They meet once a week from January through May, "under the mentoring eye of coordinator Anna Jablonski of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's Education Department." They learn how to call for works, select them, write texts, install the exhibition and publicize the show.

Of course, the dealer in me thinks that everyone should receive an education in how to install and write about artwork, but the Future Curators Teen Program strikes me as a very generous outreach program that other museums could easily copy. From the A-K website:

Future Curators is a weekly after school program for high school students in grades 11 and 12. During the course of the program, students learn about the behind-the-scenes work of a museum curator, and ultimately organize an exhibition of artwork by young local artists.

Under the guidance of the Gallery's Education department, students work with various staff members to gain the knowledge necessary to curate their exhibition. Participants are involved in every aspect of the show, from selecting the artwork from a pool of submissions to writing the interpretive labels and wall text. They will learn to matte, frame, and hang art, as well as plan the opening reception for the exhibition on a Gusto at the Gallery Friday evening.
The current state of fine art curating gets some awfully bad press from some high profile people in New York these days. Some of it is warranted, but much of it strikes me as misplaced. I suspect if the same writers wondering why curating seems to be going through a bit a crises compared the perceived offenses with the same growing pains publishing is going through (coverage priorities shifting, cost-cutting experimentation, relearning who your audience is) in this age of ever-accelerating information and globalization, they'd see a lot of similarities. Moreover, perhaps programs like Albright-Knox Art Gallery one, in which education begins earlier and happens in a different context than art school, will help smooth things out a bit.

Labels: working with curators


Anonymous Gam said...

do you think curators will become "artists" in their own rights- much like some DJs have come into their own as mashup creators? Artists in many ways, are curators of focus,composition, intent and technique for their art "object".

From over at http://confusedofcalcutta.com/ JPR speculates that in the digital epoch ..."We start having too much content. Which means the role of curators increases in importance. Curation is about access, about trust, about relationships, about expertise, about context. "

Sounds a bit like part of the galleristas role to me.

5/18/2010 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you think curators will become "artists" in their own rights-

I know many (so-called)curators who talk about their role in creating exhibits as if they were artists. it could be argued that they consider their role to be even more important than that of the artists.

Lots of artists don't like that very much...

5/18/2010 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

When I was young I’m pretty sure that curating still had its etymological meaning of “caring for” a collection (as in dusting off the pieces with a feather duster). When did it get the very different meaning – or meanings – that it has now, and how much has it been retrofitted to activities that were originally called something else? (For example, it is now standard to say that Douglas Crimp “curated” the Pictures show at Artists Space in 1977, but is that the word that was used at the time?)

I also wonder whether the word isn’t continuing to pick up new meanings even now. Something called curating is very popular among some groups of young (say under 35) serious photographers today, especially ones that are still developing their voices and looking for outlets for their work. Though they occasionally find ways to put on physical shows, they mostly work on the web.

For some of them curating means simply highlighting work that they believe deserves attention, for others it’s doing themes, and for yet others – and I think this is what's most interesting – it’s about knitting individual works by other people into a resonant whole which, while it lasts, is effectively a work of art in itself, the work of the person or people doing the curating. It’s a lot like DJing in some ways, and can be viewed as yet another manifestation of the “mashup” drive which has become so predominant in our post-postmodern culture.

I mention this trend because I think it may shed light on why today’s kids might be attracted to curating and what they might do with it. I purposely didn’t read the linked to article before writing this. When I do, I’ll be interested to see how much the program matches my expectations and how much it surprises me.

5/18/2010 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Anything that gets people--kids, their parents, the schools, the community--thinking about art is a good thing. Will most of these kids grow up to be curators? No. But they will grow into adolescence and sdulthood looking at art and thinking about what they see. Some may even become curators, dealers, artists or collectors.

5/18/2010 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

The Albright-Knox is a terrific art museum, and given their dedication to outreach, this program fits well within their mission. (Anyone who wants to see the very best Modernist Clyfford Still works won't do better.)

While there are lots of high profile and loud criticism of nearly everything in the arts, it is nice to see there are groups quietly doing "the right thing" despite all the flack flying about! Bravo!

5/18/2010 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was looking for arts related jobs after I graduated with my MFA, I was told by one museum curator that, "Artists don't know anything about art. That's why we don't hire them."

5/18/2010 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

sounds like a great program!

5/18/2010 01:03:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

Looked at the site. I guess I was expecting something a little more adventurous and maybe a little more diverse. Seems very nice though for what it is.

5/18/2010 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger J. Thomas said...

Hi All,

The A-K program sounds great. There are also fantastic programs like WacTac at the Walker in Minneapolis and the Teen Council at the CAMH in Houston.

As a former coordinator of the Teen Council, I can personally vouch for the importance of these programs. We essentially invited a group of 20 highly-motivated teens into the Museum, made them all employees (yes, we paid them!), and put them in charge of creating, organizing, and promoting events targeting the young museum-going audience. These events included exhibitions, film screenings, concerts, lectures, etc. And the students were always involved with the actual exhibiting artists at the Museum. I don't think you could ask for a more meaningful or adventurous program....

5/18/2010 05:50:00 PM  

very cool.
maybe someday we can receive the art shows right on the walls of our homes on numerous digital picture frames. A new show every week.

5/19/2010 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...

I love this idea. I think the boundaries of curation and art presentation are always in flux and galleries change as modes of art presentation faster than most institutions do. The Albright Knox is really wonderful for this and having that early forum to begin approaching art in a way that promotes scholarly interest broadens access for young people that like art but don't consider themselves artists yet. I started early myself but was privileged enough to be near many institutions like the Williams College Museum, the Clark, Mass MOCA and the Tang at Skidmore College. I am an artist only having been graduated as of 2005. I was taught to write and present my art in a vigorous program at the Massachusetts College of Art called SIM (studio for the interrelated medias). Speaking about your work in front of a mere 80 fellow students pushes you to engage people from many different POV and who's work may not be founded on the same understandings as your own. What do they say about people who's foundation for argument does not match? hehe
Anyway, part of this studio major requires you produce shows, two per semester if I remember correctly. This means going through creating a call for work, organizing and presenting the work in a designated school space, after which you are critiqued on how it was presented and how organized you were the day of the presentations. This isn't an artists main concern, that being solely one's own work, but I appreciated it as an opportunity to engage as a would-be curator.
I think if I had been offered this opportunity at 11th or 12th grade it would have been a tremendous opportunity and I can imagine that we need as many curators as we can get to address the growing number of artists in the world that are not being discovered.

5/19/2010 06:48:00 PM  

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