The Episode: “Curators, Part II: DIY”

Event Date: Tuesday, May 15, from 7 to 9 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle (http://www.vermillionseattle.com/). For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848. If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at https://boylanconversation.wordpress.com/

This time, we’re following up on last month’s spirited “Curators in Transition” conversation with a look at a new wave of independent curators, most of whom are also working artists. Read on below.

The Guests (see below for guest bios)

Anne Blackburn, artist, organizer, and agitator (and curator?)

Sharon Arnold, artist and curator

Klara Glosova, artist and curator

Tessa Hulls, artist and curator

Sierra Stinson, artist and curator

Serrah Russell, artist and curator

Jess VanNostrand, curator

Amanda Manitech, artist and curator

Ben Beres, artist and curator

The Story

Last month, we featured some of the region’s best art curators in a dynamic conversation about art and about the questions and ideas that arise out of what curators do. The focus was on museum curators who all happened to be in transition. The conversation was full of insights and great ideas, and there was a consensus, I think, that the role of institutional curators is complex. Curators are people who, in addition to creating major art exhibits, also work as scholars and writers and serve as fundraisers, adroit politicians, and cultural ambassadors for the institutions they serve.

One of those many ideas that came out of the discussion was the notion that nowadays the term “curator” has become ubiquitous. Everybody’s a curator. But there’s a lot of ground between the idea of the curator as well-seasoned institutional professional, in something close to an art priesthood, and the reductionism that says that we’re all curators, making some generally pleasing sense of the objects that surround us.

In the past few years we’ve seen the rapid rise of a curatorial role that requires good knowledge and skill, but exists well outside of the pressures and standards of a major institution. These are independent curators, usually artists themselves, carving out art spaces in storefronts and fields, in living rooms and on street corners. They are the people we’ll be talking with this time.

Once it seemed that if artists were not represented by a gallery and were not being shown in a museum, the only place left was the walls of bars and cafes. There’s nothing wrong with bars and cafes, but relatively few are designed for showing art. Alternative art spaces came along as one solution for showing art, but over the years have proven very difficult to maintain. Co-op galleries are another option, but are only as strong as the persistence and skills of their members; SOIL is a great example of a successful co-op. Enter the independent curator, operating out of a sense that the world is a potential space for art. Most are artists, most appear to be women, and most seem to have come to the conclusion that a core part of being an artist is learning to see opportunities everywhere.

I’m interested in finding out what curating and arranging shows does for artist-curators as artists. How does it change their perspective of art? Does it help them grow? Or not? Independent or DIY curators are instigators. And all of that instigation can’t help but strengthen and deepen the culture of a place, in ways outside of what museums do. We get a more complex and more durable cultural ecology, with many small spaces, coming and going, creating a web of support for art. There’s something really beautiful in that, and I want to celebrate it.

This conversation is a bit of an experiment, as was last month’s. Usually we go with four guests; this time we have nine. I’m looking to have a range of voices, a multiplicity of experiences, from Klara Glosova and Sierra Stinson turning their homes into art spaces, to Anne Blackburn’s work at Smoke Farm and the old Canoe Social Club, through Jess Van Nostrand’s storefront art space, to Tessa Hulls’s international art gallery under a bunk bed in Antarctica. This will be fascinating.

Do come.

PLUG: Cafe Nordo’s Cabinet of Curiosities opens tonight. Break open the piggy bank and go. http://cafenordo.com/

The Guests in Detail

Anne Blackburn is a local artist, organizer, and agitator who has produced shows at Smoke Farm, Canoe Social Club, Washington Ensemble Theatre, and the streets of Capitol Hill.  She writes, “Whether I can call myself a curator is the subject of this conversation.”

Serrah Russell is an artist and curator living and working in Seattle. Russell received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography in 2009 from the University of Washington, Seattle, WA. She has held solo and two person exhibitions in Seattle at The Hedreen Gallery, The OK Hotel Gallery, Vignettes Gallery, and Gallery 40. Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at: NEPO House, Seattle; SOIL Gallery, Seattle; Roq la Rue Gallery, Seattle; Topaz-Tundra, Tucson, AZ; Show and Tell, New York, NY and Lunchbox Gallery, Miami, FL. Upcoming exhibitions include Can’t Get There From Here at Lawrimore Project (May), Bouquet:Found or Forgotten at Paper Hammer Gallery (August), Pacific Motel with Maggie Carson Romano at SOIL Gallery (December). Russell’s work was also featured in the inaugural issue of Day Night; a recently released Northwest arts publication. Russell is co-founder and curator of Violet Strays; an online curatorial project emphasizing temporality with an aim to forget connections between artists by way of the internet. She has curated locally at City Arts Festival, NEPO House, Cairo Gallery, and is working on an upcoming exhibition at Paper Hammer Gallery. Russell is also a member of the artist collective SOIL.

Sierra Stinson is the founder and curator of Vignettes, an alternative exhibition space on Capital Hill in Seattle. The one-night-only exhibitions take place in her studio apartment and feature artists in many stages of their process and practice. She enjoys exploring the sense of urgency behind concept, creation, and exhibition. The transition from the studio to gallery, as well as exploring and re-evaluating what it takes to live, work, and create here and now.

Sierra has curated exhibitions at Joe Bar, Vermillion, and Cornish College of the Arts as well as co-curating a mobile pop-up gallery “Show and Tell” last August in NYC with Victoria Yee Howe. She co-curated and conceived the visual art programming with Sara Edwards for the City Arts Festival 2011 as well as organized and co-curated ONN/OF a light festival that took place January 2012 in an old sweater factory featuring 30+ Seattle based artists.

Klara Glosova is the founder and director of NEPO House, an alternative project space/ gallery in her home on Beacon Hill. In addition to organizing NEPO 5k DON’T RUN and numerous shows at NEPO House, she has curated exhibitions and events for City Arts Fest, Gage Academy of Arts, Soil Art Gallery and ONN/OF festival. She is a passionate advocate for the arts and a visual artist whose work has been exhibited both locally and internationally.

Tessa Hulls is an artist/writer/adventurer recently back to Seattle after a year spent bicycling across the United States and working at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. While in Antarctica, Tessa started the Under the Bed Gallery and curated both local and international shows. She was surprised that, in spite of the implications of the name, many people still asked where the gallery space was.

Tessa is currently taking a deliberate break from doing anything epic, and is instead learning how to be stationary. She is working on an upcoming talk entitled, “What We Make When We’re Not Making,” which explores the necessity of unproductive periods in one’s ongoing creative process.

She eventually plans to update her website so it no longer says she’s in Antarctica. www.tessahulls.com. You can see pictures of the Under the Bed Gallery on Tessa’s blog: http://growmeaboat.blogspot.com/2012/02/under-bed-outside-notions-of-antarctica.html

Jess Van Nostrand is the Founder of The Project Room, a Seattle-based interdisciplinary arts center. Jess’ projects investigate themes of contemporary life by crossing disciplines and featuring often under-recognized work being made in the Northwest. Jess has worked with artists such as Trimpin, Wynne Greenwood, Margi Geerlinks, Joseph Park, Francis Baker, John Grade, Paul Rucker, Dan Webb, and many others.

From 2007-2010, Jess was the Exhibitions Curator at Cornish College of the Arts. In addition to directing The Project Room, Jess is VP of Programs for the Board of Directors of ArtTable, the national organization for women leaders in the arts.

Sharon Arnold is a Seattle-based artist, curator, and writer. She studied at Pratt Institute in New York, focusing on sculpture, semiotics, and art history; and completed her last year and a half Magna Cum Laude at Cornish College of the Arts in 2006.

Ms. Arnold is founder of Bridge Productions/LxWxH (http://www.lengthbywidthbyheight.com/questions.html), an artist-driven public project based on the discussion and promotion of locally based art and literature. The project’s primary function is to create a bridge between artists, writers, and you in an approachable, accessible, sustainable manner. By virtue of your participation, you support our local community and gain access to collecting original pieces of work by local talent. LxWxH is a box of art featuring original work by two Seattle artists and a short essay by a local writer, stemming from the idea that art should be local, sustainable, and accessible. By collaborating with Seattle artists and writers, LxWxH provides an avenue to bring people together and collect art in an affordable and approachable way.

Her own body of work stems from unique and repetitive applications of traditional and non-traditional mediums on paper. The imagery manifests as fictional cartography or mythology; combining the idea of mapping with suggestions of de-coding, language, and rhythm. Ms. Arnold also continues to maintain the art blog Dimensions Variable (http://www.dimensionsvariable.org/) as an ongoing effort to further discussion of art in the Pacific Northwest.

Ben Beres is one third of SuttonBeresCuller (http://www.suttonberesculler.com/). He curates the art at Joe Bar (http://www.joebar.org/)

Amanda Manitech came into the discussion too late to get her bio. Here is her resume: http://www.amandamanitach.com/index.php?/cv/

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