To All AAMC Members: Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Re: AAMC Board approves Prize Committee Changes
At the May 17, 2010 AAMC Board Meeting, trustees approved a structural change to the Prize Committee, which is charged with administering four awards annually: Outstanding Exhibition Catalogue; Outstanding Permanent Collection Catalogue; Outstanding Article/Essay; and Outstanding Exhibition and Installation Prize. The process for determining three of the awards will not change. The awards for exhibition and permanent collection catalogues and article/essay, will continue to be determined as they have in the past: by volunteer peer reviewers who rotate from year to year but who have an option to serve for a total of three years.
The Outstanding Exhibition and Installation Prize has changed. Please note: instead of exhibitions nominated in time zone categories (Eastern, Central, and Mountain & Pacific), exhibitions will be nominated in thematic categories. They are:
• Outstanding Monographic or Retrospective Exhibition in North America (i.e. Canada, United States, Mexico, Central America)
• Outstanding Thematic Exhibition in North America
• Outstanding Exhibition in a University Museum in North America
• Outstanding Permanent Collection New Installation (or Re-Installation) (must be completed in year in which nominated) in North America
• Outstanding Small Exhibition (based on square footage: no more than 2,000 square feet) in North America
• In addition, the Prize Committee may, as necessary or as warranted, create one additional category annually (to recognize an outstanding exhibition that may not fall into one of the above categories, i.e. digital media, film, or video, performance, or installation art, or some category yet to be determined, by an art form yet to be created).
The Prize Committee, made up of 8 AAMC members and Sally Block, Executive Director, canvasses colleagues and friends for nomination ideas in all categories. They are charged, in other words, with the constructive role of soliciting nominations from a geographically and discipline-diverse group of curators. AAMC members will still nominate and, in fact, they are encouraged to do so and may nominate more than one exhibition in each category. The awards will still be determined by popular vote of the AAMC membership. The Prize Committee is in place to make sure the AAMC has a full slate of competitive nominations on an annual basis.
What do I do as an AAMC member?
Start thinking, looking, and talking! Begin by writing down your nominations for awards in each of the thematic categories. Be prepared to nominate them no later than the end of January 2011. Talk to your friends and colleagues about exhibitions you’d like to see nominated and then ask them for their ideas. Or, you can contact any of the Prize Committee members listed below, and make suggestions to them.
Who makes the actual nomination?
You do! The Prize Committee does too! When nominating an exhibition, you must include the exact title of the show and the organizing institution; a complete list of all organizing curators, the list of exhibition venues, if relevant, including venue dates and organizing curator at each venue, and a brief description (250 words), and a website address or media site for AAMC members to consult for more information. If this seems like too much work, send what you have to a Prize Committee member below, and we can do some of that legwork for you.
Can I nominate more than one exhibition in a single category?
Yes! In fact, it is encouraged.
What if I don’t see the exhibition I nominated on the final slate that goes out to all members?
There may be several reasons for that. One, the nomination may be unqualified. Unqualified nominations are those that are nominated by a non-AAMC member (a good reason to re-up or join AAMC) or that do not include at least one AAMC member in the nominated exhibition’s organization (another good reason to re-up or join). Another unqualified nomination is one that has been nominated two years in a row.
Also, if there are more than five nominated exhibitions in any one category, the Prize Committee edits the lists down to five nominations by Prize Committee vote: 1 indicates a top choice and 2 is a second choice. Voting is completed by the Prize Committee electronically and the votes are tabulated at the AAMC office. Then, the slate of as many as five exhibitions in each category goes to the AAMC for a vote.
Do we have to have seen the show in order to vote for it?
No—but it helps, doesn’t it? Our present curatorial reality is that travel budgets and demanding schedules don’t always allow us to see the shows we want to see. While it is not a substitute for the "real thing,” the AAMC website will provide helpful links to information and, we hope, installation shots, of the nominated exhibitions on the final slate, along with additional information. In the same way we vote for our political leaders, we vote for the winners of this award. Some members will visit a show more than once and and put a great deal of thought into their vote; others won’t. As the Prize Committee, we hope to help make it easier for AAMC members to access the information they need in order to make an informed choice. This approach should make "hard-to-reach” places throughout the country more competitive in the annual awards process.
Why did the Prize Committee/AAMC drop the time-zone approach?
The time-zone approach did an excellent job of sensitizing the AAMC membership to the association’s geographical reach and depth. The time-zone approach was a constant and worthy reminder of that. The AAMC continues to grow and evolve and no doubt this current approach will change too in order to meet the evolving needs of the membership. For now, the Prize Committee, after listening to the membership and responding to questions about the system, decided it was time to make awards on a thematic rather than geographic basis. For example, a small show of no more than 2000 square feet has the chance to win an award under the present system; it would have had little chance in the previous system, in which monumental or "major” shows typically made the slate.
How do I know the Prize Committee and jurors are operating under a transparent system?
We have an AAMC office and Executive Director Sally Block in charge. Votes are tabulated by AAMC staff (not committee members). Prize Committee members in theory can serve as jurors for the peer-reviewed awards but because of the committee workload they generally do not. In fact, the Chair of the Prize Committee and Prize Committee members learn the winners only briefly before the awards are written up for the Press Release. Sally monitors the peer-reviewed discussions by conference call, and monitors discussions with the Prize Committee, too.
How do I become involved?
Sign up! If you are interested in jury duty, respond to the call for jurors that will be announced on the AAMC website. The AAMC keeps a running list of those who have expressed interest in serving. Juries are made up, in consultation with the Prize Committee Chair, with diversity of discipline and geography in mind. If you are interested in serving on the Prize Committee, tell Sally or someone on the Prize Committee. We will keep a list (and have one from the past AAMC Conference meeting in Chicago) from which to draw. The Prize Committee is in place for this year, but if you are interested, put your name on the list, as members rotate on and off.
How do we know this new system will work?
We don’t! We hope it will. It will depend on the hard work of the committee and the membership. So please put January 2011 on your calendar for submitting nominations and start thinking, looking, and talking about those exhibitions that you think met the highest standards of curatorial excellence, however you choose to define that excellence. It is up to you!
AAMC Prize Committee
Erica E. Hirshler
Meet Erica Hirshler, Croll Senior Curator of Paintings, Art of the Americas, MFA, Boston