When training for an Olympic sport, an athlete will observe greats who have come before him or her. , With my work in Education at the New-York Historical Society, I’ve been observing master curators for six years. I often thought, “It couldn’t be that hard to tell a story through art. I throw some gallery labels on an exhibit. Maybe write an essay or two?
The question should have been: What was I thinking? Come August 2016, I will be introducing the world to my first curatorial project, RACE AND REVOLUTION. With it, I hope to stoke important conversations about how race affects our world today. But I had a long long road ahead of me. A wise person once advised, when overwhelmed, make a list. Here goes:
- Finding the artist(s): I cast a wide net, telling every one of my colleagues and friends that I was seeking 8-10 artists who worked in social/political themes. Through a mutual friend I met NONA FAUSTINE, a photographer whose work examines her identity as an African American woman by photographing herself posing nude in locations around New York City that are notorious, yet unmarked, locations of slave activity, such as the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan. She showed me, through her work, that this exhibition could be possible, that there were artists who were profoundly interested in examining their historical roots within the context of race and identity. I just had to find them.
- Now Find Seven More: After I contacted and met Nona, she was excited enough about the project that she put me in touch with one of her friends and colleagues, JORGE ALBERTO PEREZ. Two down. Six to go. This is when my computer became my best friend. I used Google. I used Pinterest. I used Instagram. Slowly, slowly, the artists responded. They responded because they connected with the show’s theme that racism today is still deeply connected to racism in the past.
- Brainstorm options for gallery space: From my years working at the New-York Historical Society, I knew there were houses (pictured above) on GOVERNORS ISLAND available by permit. I needed to research how to apply. The wonders of the Internet made it possible for me to apply for my permit online. There’s a preliminary form that is the “ask”. Then you follow up with the Director of Programs, who sends you a ton of paperwork regarding next steps. This is where the real work began . . .
- Become a Grown-up: I say this with tongue, firmly set in cheek. But I had to grow up. All of a sudden I had to think like a business owner, a mindset I had successfully avoided my whole life. There were meetings, networking events, insurance forms for artwork and businesses, more permits, hiring a staff, promoting, fundraising. Need I go on? Through all of these steps I kept telling myself that the fear is only as big as I allow it to be. Though I (daily) want to curl up on my apartment floor in the fetal position, I don’t. As I type this I cannot believe all that has been accomplished so far.
As much works as this sounds like, it is incredibly exciting. Working with and learning from the artists continues to inspire me and energize me, especially because they see the value in this project. Each day, I will explain how I found each artist and why I thought his or her contribution to “Race and Revolution” could elevate the conversation about race.
By making a contribution HERE you can help make all of this groundwork into something potentially groundbreaking.