Are public art administrators curators?

Posted by Constance White, Apr 19, 2010 14 comments

In this month's ArtNews magazine, I read a book review covering In Curating: Interviews WithTen International Curators. Carolee Thea, author of the book, quoted one curator who shared his innate perspective that, curators are mediators between artists and the public. I couldn't help but think, isn't that what I do (at least part of what I do)?

For the last day-point-five, I have been attending the Arts in the Airport workshop presented by the American Association of Airport Executives. I posed these question over cheese and berries last night, do Public Art Administrators think of themselves as curators? Are we curators? The question evoked/provoked some rather lively discussion. We really delved into the highs and lows of elitism, juxtaposed the field of museology and shared challenging views of how the two fields compare.

How do you see yourself as a public art administrator? What do you think is your obligation to the public? What do you think is your responsibility to artists?

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14 responses for Are public art administrators curators?

Comments

Kelly says
April 26, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Hello Constance,

I do believe that you all play a role as curators for the public's art collection. You have a direct or indirect impact on the eventual collection.

Regarding responsibility to the public, that is a big topic. I do think that we should use public art more as a way to promote and inspire behaviors for the public good and community good -- along with dialog and aesthetic enhancements.

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Meghan Turner says
April 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Interpreting this term broadly, the "curation" of a public art collection could take the form of consciously directing public art opportunities that serve to "fill in gaps" of a collection (i.e., more work of a particular medium, or temporary vs. perm, interactive/functional, etc.). This attempt to create a well-rounded, diverse collection usually happens via the discourse that shapes a project opportunity, sometimes in collaboration with project stakeholders. I'm not sure it can be a decision or function of one person (the public art administrator, for the purposes of this question) -- however enviable that degree of freedom sometimes appears to those of us who work in the world of routine collaboration!

Great food for thought.

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May 01, 2010 at 11:18 am

This page has a range of information about the role of a curator, which is an evolving field like any other. http://www.answers.com/topic/curator

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April 20, 2010 at 4:28 pm

We are all the center of our universe! Curators think they mediate; critics say they are the core of art practice. Then there are the academics, collectors and historians. Artists - only me? - site the artwork is the mediator between artist and public.

'Curate' is a verb in the middle of a make over.

My experience is that public art administrators 'curate' (aka select/ prioritize / contextualize) sites, aesthetics and committees then work with the contracted artist, giving feedback, perspective and parameters to shape the project.
Can we curate artists as well as artworks?

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April 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Hi Julia,

I wear two hats as a curator and a public arts administrator. I run a small public arts organization. For a long time, I denied that I was a curator. Our society likes to put people in boxes. Boundaries are important but there is plenty of room for collaboration. It's important for curators and artists to understand the limitations that administrators have to impose sometimes. It's a juggling act. But I think curators are changing. It's no longer about putting art in white boxes anymore which opens up new opportunities, interpretations and new voices. We should be expanding the art world instead of having a few people control it all.

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April 27, 2010 at 10:46 am

Hello Constance,

I do believe that you all play a role as curators for the public's art collection. You have a direct or indirect impact on the eventual collection.

Regarding responsibility to the public, that is a big topic. I do think that we should use public art more as a way to promote and inspire behaviors for the public good and community good -- along with dialog and aesthetic enhancements.

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Eric says
April 27, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Hello Constance,

I do believe that you all play a role as curators for the public's art collection. You have a direct or indirect impact on the eventual collection.

Regarding responsibility to the public, that is a big topic. I do think that we should use public art more as a way to promote and inspire behaviors for the public good and community good -- along with dialog and aesthetic enhancements.

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Jeff says
April 26, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Interpreting this term broadly, the "curation" of a public art collection could take the form of consciously directing public art opportunities that serve to "fill in gaps" of a collection (i.e., more work of a particular medium, or temporary vs. perm, interactive/functional, etc.). This attempt to create a well-rounded, diverse collection usually happens via the discourse that shapes a project opportunity, sometimes in collaboration with project stakeholders. I'm not sure it can be a decision or function of one person (the public art administrator, for the purposes of this question) -- however enviable that degree of freedom sometimes appears to those of us who work in the world of routine collaboration!

Great food for thought.

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Jennifer says
April 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Hmmm. There is some level of curation that occurs in the management of the public art collection, but the selection of works usually involves a selection panel that includes representatives of the public/community in which the artwork is sited. I think that "facilitator" would be a better description.

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dsprings@sandiego.gov says
April 22, 2010 at 9:19 am

My thoughts exactly.
If I'm going to advertise myself as an art curator, I should get a lot more schooling.
I'm a business person who works in the arts field. And proud of it!

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April 20, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Hello Constance,

I do believe that you all play a role as curators for the public's art collection. You have a direct or indirect impact on the eventual collection.

Regarding responsibility to the public, that is a big topic. I do think that we should use public art more as a way to promote and inspire behaviors for the public good and community good -- along with dialog and aesthetic enhancements.

  • Please login to post comments.
Tony says
April 27, 2010 at 2:13 am

Hello Constance,

I do believe that you all play a role as curators for the public's art collection. You have a direct or indirect impact on the eventual collection.

Regarding responsibility to the public, that is a big topic. I do think that we should use public art more as a way to promote and inspire behaviors for the public good and community good -- along with dialog and aesthetic enhancements.

  • Please login to post comments.
April 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Having been a curator for about 15 years before I was a public art administrator, I would say that a public art administrator is not a curator except in the "caring for the art" sense. Although we all do some curatorial-type functions (notably interpretation of the artist's intention for the benefit of the public), a true curator selects artwork and artists specifically in order to elicit some kind of dialogue between the artist and the public.

Most public art administrators do not select the art. In my role as a public art consultant I do get the opportunity to select artists and work to make a "match" between artist and Owner, but as a project administrator I take what I am given by the selection panel or committee.

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April 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

This is an interesting question Constance. Having been trained as a museum/exhibitions curator in a Masters program and working primarily with artists who create art in the public sphere as an art and nature curator, I feel much more oriented toward collaborating with the artist. I like to use my resources as a curator to help the artist do their best work. My curatorial education was a studio design degree and my undergraduate degree is business administration. I see the management of the art work separate from the creative collaboration with the artist. It has been my experience as a panelist for public art administrators that many feel uncomfortable working collaborative with the artist. As if giving input as to the size/scale/siting/level of interactivity, etc. is seen as politically incorrect.

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