John looks at a submission for the upcoming Teens Curate Teens exhibition
In late March, Teens Curate Teens met with the chief curator of No Longer Empty, Manon Slome. She inquired about the reasons why the teens chose to join this program. Savannah responded that the catalyst for her interest in curating came from her experience of going to the museums with her friends — hearing her friends wonder about who made up these exhibitions and what they were thinking intrigued her. Savannah ultimately joined programs at the Whitney Museum and the Museum Teen Summit and then heard about this program. Mark, one of the artists in the group, saw this opportunity as a chance to better explore the world of the artist. As for me, the art scene feels like landing on the moon and taking my first steps as I’ve always been interested in art but never knew where to start.
As teen curator rookies, Manon gave us our first lesson in Curating 101. She told us that as curators we must react to the art submissions we receive, thinking about how they provoke us. And we must pay attention to how they fit in with other pieces, organizing our exhibition around a theme. However, this is an art world: everything cannot be squeezed into one box of a theme, as it’s in the nature of artist to go outside the box. So, if an artwork is seen as deeply profound we have the right to make exceptions to our own rules.
Teens Curate Teens also struggled to produce a title for the exhibition. But to our relief, Manon advised on us creating a title after we received the pieces so we could let it emerge from the work. Even without the title, we needed a better idea of where to put each selection so we decided to get blueprints and the latest pictures from the site in order to grasp the atmosphere and get a visual of the space. With this Manon said her goodbyes and left us with Nathan and his friend Grace, who also works in the world of curating and art.
Nathan came up with a genius activity for all of us to create our own mini-exhibition by choosing five works from copies of famous artwork from MoMA. The rookie curators along with Grace and Nathan took five minutes to make their exhibitions before we shared our work. Mark, following his artistic impulse, created an exhibition focused on how the colors and textures of the five pieces communicated with each other and everyone was highly impressed. My exhibition decisions were based on the emotions each artwork evoked within me. While making sense to me, it did throw off some of the other members of the group. Grace’s exhibition revolved around underlying political issues in the home of the average person she wanted to highlight. She organized her work by manipulating the order and space of the works as well as contrasting the colors between the last two works.
Throughout each mini-exhibition people were surprised how certain works were combined to create a specific effect or realized the extent to how two or more pieces of art communicate with each other. The impact pictures can leave on people can change depending on how they are arranged and the space between them. This is the power of a curator and a highly underestimated one.
After the exercise, Grace formally introduced herself as an artist and a curator. One day she and a friend came up with an idea to research how people created paper and went to a park to teach it. Soon she, along with other people she knew, decided to create an art exhibition in an old,weary building also used as a church on Sundays revolving around paper. Grace chose that specific building because it involved the community and she wanted the community to have access to the arts. Her exhibition became known as Paper and Pulp: Gathering a Community. Through publicity and spreading the word people came to the exhibition where art workshops were hosted and the community became exposed to the power of not just art but curation.
Curating is not just modeling which way to put art pieces together. Curators craft a story they want to tell people. They possess the ability to connect artists and create a social atmosphere in a sometimes lonely artist world. Curating has a social aspect as well which can bring strong change and inspiration to the world. As guardians of the art world and to insure not just the survival but of the thriving of art we must expose ALL communities with a rich and diverse variety of it through means such as exhibitions and workshops.
To borrow a quote Grace used:
“If the structure does not permit dialogue, the structure must be changed.”- Paulo Freire
For more information on Grace’s work click on the following links: