Curator is a term that has recently entered into the language to describe everything from a display of vegetables at a high end market to a selection of wines for a tasting room in the Napa Valley. As my mentors and colleagues refer to ourselves, the word describes our process: the development of a thoughtful idea, a great deal of research and writing and finally a collection of objects/art works chosen to illustrate the concept.
Until about 50 years ago, curators were mainly caretakers of art works and facilitators of their exhibition – thus perhaps the French term still in use today: “conservateur”. The Swiss curator Harald Szeemann is often credited with altering the way curators work through the many innovative exhibitions he created in the 60’s and 70’s. In the words of Glenn Philips, head of the Getty Research Institute’s modern and contemporary collections, Szeemann’s work “served for many curators as a symbol of curating in its purest form – exhibition making as a creative act”.
In my career I have attempted just that but for the last seven years my role as “curator” for the Emeryville Celebrations of the Arts has had a slightly different slant. For this exhibition I work with two individuals invited from the bay area arts professional community to jury submissions from artists who live or work in Emeryville. This year we are indebted to gallerists George Lawson and Elizabeth Shypertt for their careful attention during the three long days we spent visiting studios and reviewing works submitted digitally. That process completed, I plan the installation of the selected works and thus become something closer to exhibition designer.
Each year the exhibition is mounted in a different commercial or industrial space on loan to the organization. I attempt to create a gallery-like setting in these widely diverse locations and imagine how the works selected can be installed in an interesting manner. My task then involves directing the building of temporary walls by the very able carpenters of Bashland Builders, bringing in props - platforms and pedestals to support the work, and directing artist/volunteers in the tasks involved in mounting an exhibition. This is all challenging work that I enjoy immensely. I am grateful to ECA for the opportunity.
Emeryville Celebration of the Arts enjoys the generous volunteer participation of the entire community. It is our pleasure to present again this year for the thirty-third time, the enormous artistic wealth of this tiny village in the middle of San Francisco’s Bay Area.