Ten Artists for Ten Years recently closed this past week and I have been marinating on the experience of curating my first “serious” exhibition at the Sumner School Museum and Archives. The exhibition featured ten (10) emerging and mid-career artists based in the Washington, DC area and celebrated the visual art culture of the last ten years.
I was thrilled as well as a bit nervous to curate such an important exhibition for the Millennium Arts Salon. I had been a member of MAS for a couple of years and knew many of the members, who were serious art collectors. They all had a good eye and many were influential in the DC art world. Not only that, they were well-read and well-traveled (half of the membership it seemed been to Miami Art Basel at least once in the last five years).
And then, there were the artists… with extensive resumes, many of whom are fortunate to devote to artmaking full-time. Their work has been seen in galleries and museums around the world, published in exhibition catalogues, and were collected by celebrities and renown figures across the United Staters. A few were people I had long admired and were influences in my own artwork. One was a member of the renown AfriCobra Movement. Would they take me seriously? Would they even trust my vision? Would they even allow me into their studios?
My experience in the last 5 years has been curating exhibitions with unknown, emerging artists, which appealed to beginning collectors. My audience knew of or cared less about who MAS was and with the exception of Billy Colbert, knew nothing about the other 9 artists in the show. When I first announced it to many of my colleagues, I received a response equal to a yawn. Ok, no kudos there…but I knew how important this was to my art world peers.
The process of working with Juanita Hardy, co-founder of the Millennium Arts Salon, meeting and selecting work from the artists, making decisions how the work would be hung and organizing the Art Salon talks was one of the most wonderful experiences in my life. I found the artists warm, friendly, and trusting of my instinct and abilities. I think fondly of the deep discussions I had with a few of the artists in their studios about the art making process, their careers, their inspirations. The Art Salons were all well-attended by MAS members and others curious about the exhibition. The dialogue during each event was rich and insightful. MAS members were very pleased with the exhibition and I received many compliments from members and non-members alike. One of the most special moments was being able to coax a renown mid-career artist who avoided doing artist talks during his entire art career to get the nerve up to discuss his work for the very first time to an audience (and ended up stealing the show!).
Lisa Gold, Executive Director of the Washington Project for the Arts had a private viewing of the show. A big highlight for me was to have the opportunity to meet Klaus Ottmann the newly appointed Curator at Large at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC during another private tour of the exhibition, arranged by MAS.
The show and experience has become one of the major highlights of my art career. As I continue to work with the artists and MAS to publish a catalogue of the show, I felt I would thank everyone who supported the show, from the MAS members to the artists, and made it a success.