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Top tags: donor  De Montebello  keynote  mentoring  RTI 

The Cosmic Union of Curatorial Practice and Conservation

Posted By Allysa Browne Peyton, Curatorial Associate for Asian Art, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Cosmic Union of Curatorial Practice and Conservation

 

The AAMC’s annual meeting, and especially the keynote address, was in a word invigorating.  Addressing a sea of curators at every stage of career development were words of not only encouragement, but words of, well, heated passion. As in, curators (the words gods and goddesses were used) charged with stewards of visual culture are sent off flaming into the museum world bringing with them a renewed light to share with others. It was big. Paola Antonelli spoke of curators as geisha – that we gracefully interpret a culture of abundance to a society that is already visually over-stimulated. As a group, we were reminded of our mission by Phillipe de Montebello à la Cicero: DOCERE (to delight) DELECTARE (to delight) and MOVERE (to move).  I could feel myself holding my breath with excitement.


But here’s the point:  In order to de-mystify what we are presenting, there is a need for balance. For all of the glamour of the cocktail party, there must be the sweat from the stacks. The panel on innovative conservation offered this yang to the yin, the consort to the god…the cosmic union of curatorial practice and conservation.  As Kwame Anthony Appiah noted in another panel, there is always a financial challenge to doing anything worthwhile and that there is always tension between preservation and presentation.  Two always is a subtle way of saying it is really hard to strike a balance. Tools in the arsenal: Katharine DeShaw tips for donor cultivation and an uber-team of conservation counterparts.

 

Maryan Ainsworth, Lee Ann Daffner, Margaret Holben Ellis, and Joanna Phillips gave insights in new technology to help evaluate acquisitions in terms of provenance and attribution, to better evaluate and care for our collections, and to evaluate aesthetic excellence.  A system described for this material-based approach was RTI (reflective transformation imaging) a.k.a. polynomial texture mapping: a blended highlight map which allows us to see texture, more precise conditioning of works on paper, and a more accurate identification of materials and techniques. While I couldn’t attempt to define what specular enhancement or image unsharp masking is, I do understand when RTI is described as a process which offers  imaging that is "raw and alive” – giving the integrated curatorial and conservation team the ability to qualify and quantify the indescribable.

 

Joanna Phillips focused on conservation of time-based media – the most risky, high maintenance artworks ranging from video, slides, film to sculpture. We learned about hot pixels, that some equipment is only purchased for an acquisition if it is obsolete or rare, and as a rule that Joanna spends many, many hours here at the ‘playback station’:

 

I thought about issues that I had never considered like condition reporting a slide projector, how the media conservator documents and considers the artists’ preferences or intent, and how pivotal quality control is before a time-based media work enters a collection.


All of the speakers advocated a multi-disciplinary approach to the field. Curatorial scholars, conservation scientists, and technical art historians happily melded into a tasty soup of cosmic union. Each ingredient will compliment the other and amount to something greater than the sum of its parts. Adding substance to sexy may turn out to be sexier than ever before thought possible.


More about RTI technology:

http://www.c-h-i.org/technology/ptm/ptm.html

http://vimeo.com/12753104

http://culturalheritageimaging.wordpress.com/tag/rti/ 

More about new media conservation:

http://www.packed.be/en/resources/detail/interview_met_joanna_phillips/interviews/

 

Allysa Browne Peyton
Curatorial Associate for Asian Art
Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art

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Tags:  RTI 

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Reflections on Philippe

Posted By Trinita Kennedy, Associate Curator, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Philippe de Montebello, the aristocratic former director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, once said, "I am the Met; the Met is me.” For over thirty years he was the highest profile museum professional in the United States. He poured his life into The Museum, as the Met is called, and the dynamic ways in which he developed its collections, exhibitions, and programming served as the primary model followed by the vast majority of other American museums. For our organization, AAMC, Mr. de Montebello’s greatest legacy is his enduring respect for curators (he was, after all, once one himself) and the tremendous resources he devoted to research and teaching at the Met, which has helped curators to gain recognition as important thinkers and to bridge the gap between curators and academics.


Although AAMC’s tenth annual meeting opened with its members giving Mr. de Montebello an award for distinguished service, the first session looked forward to the future rather than reflecting on the de Montebello years (even he seemed a bit tired of the endless accolades he has received since retiring two years ago). Presiding over the first session himself, Mr. de Montebello passed the baton to all the curators in the room as we collectively contemplated the question, "What is the Museum of 2021?” The discussion was led by a series of distinguished panelists who are all already seeking to shatter established museum paradigms with their work. Paola Antonelli, the design curator at the Museum of Modern Art who made headlines last year for audaciously adding the @ symbol to MoMA’s collection, envisioned a future in which museums would be "centers of R&D for society” and community-based rather than object-based. Linda Shearer then showed that at Project Row Houses in Houston, where she is director, those ideas are, in fact, already a reality—although not without Mr. de Montebello questioning whether the new institution could be considered a museum at all, given its lack of a permanent collection. Princeton philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah rounded out the panel and, with the aplomb of a seasoned diplomat at the United Nations, advocated for the idea that collections do not belong to the institutions that invest in and care for them but rather to the world, by which he meant that leading museums had an obligation to share their treasures not just with peer institutions and wealthy nations like Japan and Qatar that can pay multi-million-dollar loan fees, but also the Third World. Mr. de Montebello’s concluding statement—"bisogna cambiare tutto per non cambiare nienta” (everything must change so that nothing changes), taken from Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard)—served as a reminder that change is inevitable. For us this means that we must adapt if we are to survive in this new era in which even recent notions about the role of art museums in society are being revised. These ideas are being broadened because of globalization and shifts in population and power and fractured with the advent of new technologies. It is a testament to the vitality of the field that at the end of the session the room was not filled with melancholy for a world gone by, but rather energized and empowered by the opening up of a seemingly endless number of new possibilities. 


Trinita Kennedy

Associate Curator

Frist Center for the Visual Arts

Nashville

Tags:  De Montebello 

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Keynote Panel

Posted By Sarah Schultz, Curatorial Assistant, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Keynote Panel
Looking Forward Ten Years: What is the Museum of 2021?


Sarah Schultz, Curatorial Assistant for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


After the Keynote Panel: Looking Forward Ten Years: What is the Museum of 2021 on Monday morning, I felt that each speaker on the panel could have their own catchphrase to encapsulate his/her main point.  For Paola Antonelli who described early-on how she came to understand the donor-curator relationship, it’d be: "curators are like geishas, well-trained in ancient instruments yet dependent on institutions and donors” in essence, we are well-kept.  For Linda Shearer, her catchphrase would explore how museums can go beyond collection management and reach out to local communities in a tangible way.  For Kwame Anthony Appiah, it’d be: "access over ownership,” for his call for increased access to collections, encouraging curatorial collaboration internationally over individual ownership.


While Antonelli spoke about the curator’s role within a collecting institution, Linda Shearer showed how a curator can function without an institution.  After working as a curator in a number of major museums in New York, Shearer is now the Executive Director of Project Row Houses, a non-profit that "melds economics, aesthetics and restorative architecture.” Artist and community activist Rick Lowe founded Project Row Houses as an artist’s residency program in the fourth ward of Houston, an historic neighborhood that was at risk of being demolished by the city.  As a Houston native, I was inspired by Shearer’s tenacity to help make Project Row Houses a reality and preserve the existing community. 


Kwame Anthony Appiah predicted that new technology will affect the museum of 2021.  Technology will be the primary means of museum collections and inversely, museums accessing audiences. Technologies’ global presence allows for vast art collections, when available online, to reach wider and more diverse audiences than ever before. 


Throughout the rest of the conference, I often returned to main ideas I heard during this inspiring keynote panel.  Indeed, all three panelists lived up to their celebrity.

Tags:  keynote 

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Award Presentation/Keynote

Posted By Annemarie Sawkins, Haggerty Museum , Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Award Presentation/Keynote

A Blog by Annemarie Sawkins

 

How fitting that Philippe de Montebello, director emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, received the AAMC’s newly created Award for Distinguished Service named in his honor and designed by Frank Stella, an icon of American art. Though never a curator himself―Philippe served as the director of Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts for four and half years before assuming the reins of the Metropolitan which he led not only ably but with distinction for 32 years―he understands museums. They are, after all, platforms for people and ideas, places where we care for, research and present objects precisely because of what they tell us about us.


            Philippe de Montebello was the ultimate director, because he was sensitive to curators and their needs not only in the museum and galleries, but in the wider world. He was gracious, for example, in accepting the AAMC’s invitation to speak at our 10th Annual conference at which time he eloquently addressed the important role played by curators. 


            For those who love plays or masques and anti-masques in the tradition of Inigo Jones and Ben Jonson, there is one here. In the fall of 2008, the curators of the Metropolitan accomplished two major feats. First they successfully planned a tribute exhibition, with over 300 major works acquired during de Montebello’s tenure, titled The Philippe de Montebello Years Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions, and they did it WITHOUT the director having any ideas of what was afoot. And just as curators wear many hats and play multiple roles, Philippe transitioned from award recipient to moderator without so much as a pause. Rather as he is want to do, he continues to champion a diversity of approaches and to stretch our minds by suggesting that "culture is more verbal than visual.”


            This idea served as the perfect transition to a panel titled Looking Forward Ten Years: What is the Museum of 2021? that could not have been more cleverly planned or wonderfully apropos.  In three very different talks the speakers―Paola Antonelli, Kwane Anthony Appiah and Linda Shearer―examined the role played by curators. Have you thought of yourself as a Geisha? Or the English Professor and bibliophile in Zorba the Greek who does not learn to live until he meets his antithesis? For some, curators are indeed like Geisha; entertainers, caretakers of people and objects, masters of the old, and by nature financial dependents. For Antonelli, true curators are highly conscious of the ambiguity of culture and the constant need to work with objects to ultimately deal with the issues of today. These, it was recognized by all, are expansive and include environmental responsibility (sustainability) and the sheer fact that because "history mirrors the present” our work is as vital as ever.


            Like Antonelli, Kwane Anthony Appiah turned to the past to address the topic of the panel, the museum of 2021. After reminding us of the role of museums in collecting objects, researching them and then sharing that information, he gave us an anecdote related to Jacob I Bernoulli’s 1684 discoveries related to probability theory. The idea here is that random variables and events, when repeated many times, exhibit certain patterns, which can be studied and predicted. His specific example was the 1635 expansion of British mail services from a strictly royal system to one that was more public. From this came conservations about logistics and new thoughts and approaches. For Appiah, the future of museums is tied to new media and the way of doing things now and in the future will be all about "access not ownership”.


            Closing out the panel was Linda Shearer, whose vast experiences include working at a variety of museums from alternative to established and from collecting to non-collecting. Shearer sees museums of all types including Project Row Houses, which she currently directs, as by necessity needing to "reflect community”. Increasing accessibility to objects, for Shearer, includes expanding the number and type of voices either commenting on an object, as in the Label Talk model, where three faculty write about the same object, or through the exchange of ideas. As models of interpretation of the past and of the future, the panelists made clear the primacy of our work in an ever changing landscape.

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Thoughts on our Future

Posted By Rachel Mohl, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thoughts on our Future

A Summary of the AAMC Conference’s Keynote Panel

By Rachel Mohl

 

It’s a daunting task to think about the future, but three brave speakers at the AAMC conference addressed this challenge in the keynote panel titled Looking Forward Ten Years: What is the Museum of 2021?  It this time of economic difficulty and cultural uncertainty, their talks gave me hope for the future of museums.

 

Paola Antonelli began by comparing curators to geishas, which is a fairly accurate description.  However, as she explained, we are geishas with a noble purpose.  According to Antonelli, museums should serve as a role model and cultural inspiration for public audiences by being environmentally responsible and working for the common good. Her most important point was that museums need to establish metrics to prove their value in society.  She set very big goals for museums, and I would love to hear her thoughts on how curators can work to accomplish them.

 

For me, Linda Shearer gave the most inspirational talk of the entire conference.  She spoke about Project Row Houses, an endeavor that brings art and so much more to underserved communities.  By converting shotgun-style houses condemned for demolition into art spaces, this project creates safe places in a low-income neighborhood in Houston.  I was truly impressed with how she has used art as a catalyst for change.

 

The final speaker, K. Anthony Appiah, linked the future of museums with advancement in technology.  He stressed access to objects, rather than ownership, through the use of technology.  In many ways, all of the speakers promoted the same idea through different approaches.  They all connected the future of museums to these institutions finding ways to engage and reach diverse audiences. 

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Collaborative Curating

Posted By Brandy S. Culp, Curator, Historic Charleston Foundation, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

 

After attending the panel discussion "Collaborative Curating,” I have expanded my definitions of "creative” and "collaborative” in the museum context. Structured in a narrative based format, the panelists shared their collaborative projects ranging from a city-wide print mania celebration in Philadelphia to a hands-on project between a curator and a neuroscientist in hopes of exploring the sensory experience of handling objects. Don’t worry no one will be handing the real thing in the exhibition. Most interestingly, the projects discussed by the panelists were so innovative that had you walked blindly into the auditorium, you could have easily thought you were attending instead the panel entitled "Looking forward Ten Years: What is the Museum of 2021.” Shelley Langdale, Adriana Proser, Sarah Schroth, Joaneath Spicer, and Cynthia Burlington recounted a diversity of endeavors that shared a common theme—leverage relationships and partnerships in order to creatively engage and educate the visitor in innovative ways.


Some projects, such as Shelley Langdale’s Philagrafika 2010 involving countless Philadelphia institutions, were certainly beyond the scope of most small institutions, especially those with staff limitations. So as a curator who is also the collections manager, exhibition designer, preparator, registrar, and sometimes honorary member of other departments at HCF, I immediately recognized that these projects appeared beyond the scope of my institution. I even found myself asking myself how are these projects relevant to me, and then I had the "Aha moment.” That was not the point! I was being too self-focused and had to step back and ask instead--what was the central thread present in each of the talks. It all boiled down to the power of collective action and where that can take cultural institutions. I was certainly inspired, and although I may not have the opportunity to team up with a neuroscientist in the near future, I completely understand the need for stepping outside of our curatorial bubble and expanding what collaboration means. Partnership is clearly the most effective method of remaining relevant, leveraging increasingly diminished resources, and engaging a broader audience. So the type of "Collaborative Curating” espoused in this panel is indeed "looking forward ten years.”

 

Brandy S. Culp

Curator

Historic Charleston Foundation

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Collaborative Curating

Posted By Rachael Arauz, Independent curator, Boston, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blog entry, Collaborative curating

Rachael Arauz, Independent curator, Boston

 

I was eager to attend the panel on Collaborative Curating, since all of my work as an independent curator involves new and changing models of collaboration with each museum that hires me. Overall the panel was rich with a variety of projects, and it was great to learn about so many versions of collaborative work in the field. However, I would second Anna Marley’s suggestion that a future panel on the same theme might be more successful with fewer projects and more collaborators speaking on a given project. It would have been nice to understand better the origins of each project and get into the nitty-gritty of the (gently explained) complications that might have arisen from the collaborations. How and why did each museum make connections with the guest curators and institutions with whom they worked? I especially liked that the panel included different versions of collaborations, including a curator-artist collaboration and a curator-faculty collaboration. Artists and academics function frequently in museums as guest curators, and their particular expertise and insight into an exhibition topic can enliven the subject matter in important ways. I would imagine, though, that the logistical work of an exhibition might also be quite complicated by a collaborator who brings subject expertise but minimal curatorial experience. How were responsibilities divided between the guest curator and the in-house curator? Some of these questions were briefly touched on, but deserved more time for discussion (probably way beyond the scope of an afternoon panel!). The role of the independent curator exists under the broader umbrella of guest curating and, similar to an artist or faculty member, we hope to bring new insights and energy to each exhibition we work on. Ideally, most independent curators also bring years of curatorial experience to a project as well as their own history of collaborative models each time a museum engages us. With some medium and smaller museums eliminating staff positions and tightening budgets, the use of guest curators with a variety of professional skills seems on the rise as a means of maintaining lively curatorial programming throughout the year. I hope collaborative curating will continue to be a topic addressed by the AAMC in both formal and informal venues. Future conversations will indeed benefit from more in-depth explorations of the origins of the collaboration, the complexities of the project, and the ways in which everyone benefits from these new relationships in the museum world.

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Collaborative Curating

Posted By John Zarobell, Assistant Curator of Collections, Exhibitions and Commissions, SFMOMA, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Collaborative Curating” at AAMC10 (May 16, 2011)

 

By John Zarobell, Assistant Curator of Collections, Exhibitions and Commissions, SFMOMA

 

 

Unlike many intellectual producers, the job of the curator is to collaborate with others in order to generate a project in public.  It is impossible to work alone, even to create a small, in-house exhibition, and indeed most projects curators are involved in—whether acquisitions, exhibitions, or collections care—require building a network of support and producing a consensus on how to move forward.  A synonym for curator could be negotiator.

 

Even so, many curators are not content simply to work with a team of professionals and supporters at their own museums, artists, dealers, and partner venues. Some want to extend their immersion into the world at large and engage with, among others, filmmakers, neuroscientists, and community groups.  Would any curator in her right mind take on the challenge of working with artists-as-curators, academic art historians-as-curators, and perhaps worst of all, an international and local team of arts organizations coordinating a city-wide print festival?  Apparently so.  Collaborating would appear to be, for some, a sort of addiction.  Too much is never enough.  Perhaps we are all enamored of listening to people tell us how to do what we do (and politely ignoring them).

 

Or, it could be that the cause lay elsewhere.  It could be, though I am not sure by any means, that curators—those arbiters of everything but especially taste—are not in fact the deciders (as W would have it) but they actually seek to empower others through their work.  There are as many ways to think of a curatorial project as there are curators, but a few categories might help here.  One means of collaborating is to bring others in to a project one does at the museum (or with other museums); another is to work with outsiders on a project that can be seen both at the museum and in another form; and a third is to use a curatorial project to shine a spotlight on the actions of others outside of the museum.  Among the five panelists at the "Collaborative Curating” panel, Cindy Burlingham, (Deputy Director of Collections, Hammer Museum and Director, Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts) and Sarah Schroth (Nancy Hanks Senior Curator, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University) would fit into the first group, Adriana Proser (John H. Foster Curator for Traditional Asian Art, Asia Society Museum) and Joneath Spicer (James A. Murnaghan Curator of Renaissance and Baroque Art, The Walters Art Museum) exemplify the second category, and Shelley Langdale’s (Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings, Philadelphia Museum of Art) involvement with Philagraphika would seem to be a means of extending beyond the institution while still working within it.

 

Burlingham and Schroth discussed their projects at the Hammer Museum and the Nasher Center at Duke University, respectively.  Burlingham worked to organize an exhibition of Charles Burchfield’s watercolors (Heatwaves in a Swamp, 2009) with the artist Robert Gober acting as a co-curator while Schroth worked with the art historian Mark Antliff as co-curator (as well as Vivien Greene) on The Vorticists exhibition (2010).  In the presentations of Schroth and Burlingham, the audience learned how extending beyond the pool of experienced curators transformed and enhanced their exhibition projects in their respective institutions and the other venues where these shows were viewed.

 

 Adriana Proser discussed her collaboration with filmmaker David Grubin which extended her Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art exhibition (Asia Society, 2010) into another domain, the PBS documentary.  While Proser was careful to qualify her successes, it is clear that the great benefits to her project were 1) the huge grant from the NEH that allowed for the film and the development of her show; 2) the opportunity to work with a producer outside of the museum context to leverage greater potential for the project research and to develop a larger audience base as a result of heightened exposure.  Spicer’s exhibition project (Touch and the Enjoyment of Sculpture: Exploring the Appeal of Renaissance Statuettes, 2011) involved working with a neuroscientist from Johns Hopkins in order to develop a beneficial collaboration between the domains of art and science.  Further, she sought to extend the examination of Renaissance statuettes in the collection of the Walters Art Museum.  By working with a specialist in the psychology of perception and presenting results in an interdisciplinary symposium, Spicer’s own research on the Walters’ collection was enriched and expanded.

 

Langdale’s collaboration with Philagraphika (2010) resulted in a curated exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art but it truly extended her curatorial reach beyond the museum and into the city at large.  Langdale struggled to convey the size and complexity of Philagraphika during her ten-minute presentation but it was clear that the project had a lot of moving parts and that Langdale, as a member of the collective curatorial committee led by José Roca, participated in a city-wide art exhibition/festival that included some 90 institutions and over 400 artists.  To my mind, it is here one comes to the core of collaboration because there is no way that the particular perspective of an individual curator can withstand in such an instance.  In this context, a curator can only participate, not determine, and the result is that the activity of the curator becomes part of a collective, not owned by the individual or the institution for which she works.  This kind of generosity is never reimbursed, but when a curator can use their skills and connections to mobilize something much bigger than herself—and literally beyond her control—the curator realizes most fully the public dimension of her role.

 

What I took away from the panel is that there are many ways to collaborate but each one pays dividends to the curator who is willing to extend her reach beyond the walls of the museum and engage the world at large. Collaboration is both the implicit nature of our work and its greatest potential.

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Collaborative Curating

Posted By Anna O. Marley, Curator of Historical American Art, PAFA, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blog entry, Collaborative Curating, AAMC conference, 2011

 

Anna O. Marley, Curator of Historical American Art, PAFA

 

Having just collaboratively curated the exhibition Anatomy/Academy at my institution (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) with my fellow curators Bob Cozzolino (Curator of Modern Art) and Julien Robson (Curator of Contemporary Art) I was especially eager to attend this panel. The range of exhibitions and collaborations presented was impressive, and having seen two of the collaborations first hand – the Charles Burchfield exhibition and the Philagrafika Festival – I know how successful and inspiring were the results of these collaborations. I was less impressed with the format of the panel, which I found did not really embody the spirit of the collaboration. One curator from each project presented on their experience, and these presentations were so cursory (while at the same time running over their allotted speaking time) that they merely served as introductions and overviews of the exhibitions, rather than a real engagement with the challenges and benefits of the collaborative experience. I would rather there were fewer projects discussed – there were five panelists and projects – and more of the collaborative partners involved in each exhibition to share their experiences. For example, I was fascinated by the process of a curator and an artist creating an exhibition together, as was the case with Bob Gober and Cynthia Burlingham, but I felt the panel only showed us the curator’s perspective, rather than how the artist and the curator worked together to create such a visual sumptuous and intellectually satisfying exhibition and catalog. How did the artist feel about working with the curator? Likewise, how did the filmmaker David Grubin benefit from working with the Asia Society Museum? What reactions did he have to working with museum staff, and what can museums learn from documentary filmmakers? Whereas many of the other panels, such as innovative conservation methods and developing donor cultivation confidence, offered concrete advice for how to face and surmount conservation and fundraising challenges, I did not leave collaborative curating with any sense of the best practices in the field. Perhaps next year a similar panel can be convened, with fewer projects presented, and more focus on the nuts and bolts of working collaboratively outside the curatorial ranks.

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Collaborative Curating

Posted By Natalie A. Mault Curator, LSU Museum of Art, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Collaborative Curating

 

The thought of collaborating in a museum field that already has its fair share of stresses and deadlines, brings me back to the days of group projects in high school. Even now, collaborating seems like a daunting task.

 

The panel discussion began with moderator Cynthia Burlingham, Deputy Director of Collections at the Hammer Museum and Director at the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, who discussed a collaboration with the artist Robert Gober, who co-curated a retrospective of works by Charles Burchfield. This notion of inviting an artist to make connections to another artist’s works sounded fabulous, even if it wasn’t clear as to why Gober was the particular artist-curator selected for this exhibition. I suppose that is a task for me to research on my own.

The discussion continued with similar presentations and slide images of the curatorial installations, starting with Shelley R. Langdale, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the city-wide recurring event, Philagrafika. My impression of this collaborative project was an overall sense of intrigue and amazement – how is this project possible; what is the time frame to make something like this happen; how is this funded; what curators have the time to organize a city-wide event; etc., etc. Certainly I would not be able to, even as a part of a group of several curators, create a recurring, multi-collaborative, city-wide event on top of the daily curatorial needs of my institution. And then I discovered that an outside project manager oversees the project, and it all made a bit more sense. Still, the amount of community involvement given towards this one project is something for every city to strive towards.

Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Curator for Traditional Asian Art at the Asia Society Museum, presented her collaboration with the PBS filmmaker, David Grubin. My initial sense was that the project seemed more like good-luck and good-timing than a collaborative effort. These two separate entities happened to be working on a similar subject matter, the Buddha, at the same time. Although impressive, the overall scale of this project and the $1 million funding budget from the NEH, made the project appear somewhat out of reach for me and my institution. And again, I was back to feeling like collaborative curating was a daunting task.

 

The final two panel presentations by Sarah Schroth, Nancy Hanks Senior Curator at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, and Joaneath Spicer, James A. Murnaghan Curator of Renaissance and Baroque Art at The Walters Art Museum brought me out of my self-doubt and feelings of daunt, even though the scale of their projects again sounded improbable at my institution. Schroth discussed a collaborative effort with museums overseas (the Guggenheim in Venice and the Tate, London), but she also worked with faculty members at Duke University to create a greater understanding of the overall exhibition on the Vorticists. Similarly, Spicer worked with a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University to create a greater understanding of her exhibition on touch. These were the collaborative projects that seem the most possible for me – the idea of working with local artists and academic faculty, to not only create a better understanding of art, but to also establish a stronger bond with the community. It dawned on me, and was stated several times throughout the conference, that this sense of community involvement and ownership is the key to the future success of museums.

 

Overall, collaborative projects still seem daunting, but this panel presented collaborative efforts involving a wide range of participants, making collaborative curating seem somewhat less complicated.

 

Natalie A. Mault

Curator, LSU Museum of Art

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Conservation with Peter Barnet and Peter Dandridge

Posted By Stanton Thomas, Ph.D., Curator of European Painting and Decorative Arts, Memphis Brooks Museum, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stanton Thomas, Ph.D.

Curator of European Painting and Decorative Arts

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, Tennessee


One of the best parts of the conference was the opportunity to attend in-depth sessions on conservation. It was tough to decide among the session as the variety of offerings was excellent, and all of them would have applied to works in our collection. Also, as we do not have a conservation department, I was particularly interested in hearing about treatments, as well as innovative ways of presenting conservation materials to the public. I attended Peter Barnet and Pete Dandridge’s session on the study and conservation of aquamanilia. I was captivated the moment I walked through the door of the studio and saw no fewer than five splendid examples ranged along the table for examination. But if the objects themselves were fascinating, the discussion of medieval metal working, investigative techniques, and the connoisseurship of these vessels was even more so. For instance, although I had a rough concept of how these works were made, I had no idea of the sophistication of their manufacture—from the formation of their cores to the consistent need for post-casting repairs to lacunae resulting from the pouring process. The presentation also focused upon how such information could be effectively presented to a museum audience. In particular, the reproductions of an early crucible and working examples of the sculpting and casting process really brought the art of medieval metal-smithing to life.  Perhaps most importantly, attending the session provided me with great practical knowledge that will allow me to consider medieval metal work in my own institution’s collection more critically. Thanks to AAMC, I greatly increased my understanding of an area which I otherwise would know way too little.

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Objects conservation with Ian Wardropper and Jack Soultanian

Posted By Sally S. Block, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lauren Rabb, Curator

University of Arizona Museum of Art

 

The session on objects conservation led by Ian Wardropper and Jack Soultanian at the Met was a terrific treat. This is how it worked:

Mr. Wardropper would first introduce a work from its art historical angle. For exampple, about the over-life-sized marble Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Antonio Canova that visually anchors the Petrie Sculpture Court, we learned, among other interesting things, that it is a second version of the composition, made on commission; that Canova prepared his work with a full-scale clay model; that his assistants and pupils did the rough carving but that, as stipulated in the contract, he personally finished the figure, especially the "important” parts (e.g. the heads) and most delicate details; and that his delivery included a second Medusa head, made of plaster, in case a problem would arise with the heavy marble hanging off the figure’s outstretched arm. (Amazingly, the plaster head still exists and was there for us to see).

Then Mr. Soultanian would describe the things he has to consider when beginning the conservation or cleaning of a marble. Regardign Perseus, it was imposrtant to know that Canova always toned his marbles to a warm, almost ivory shade, perhaps to make them look more like antiquities. This fact ruled out the use of poultices, the most effective and simple (?) treatment for removing ingrained dirt from stone, as they would also have leeched out the intended coloring. Instead, Mr. Soultanian employed erasers and saliva (did he really say that??), on a job that took three months to complete.

In this way, alternating between two strands of narrative, our group walked through the gallery and considered sculptures by different artists, in different styles, and with different conservation problems and their solutions. To me – neither a sculpture specialist nor a conservator – this exercise in seeing a sculpture as both historical artifact and material object was exciting. Never had the works been so rich. 

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Paintings Conservation with Keith Christensen, George Bisacca, & Michael Gallagher

Posted By Sue Canterbury, Independent Curator, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Paintings Conservation with Keith Christensen, George Bisacca, & Michael Gallagher

 

There are few things that can offer the satisfaction revealed through the restoration of an object to its best possible state since its creation.  Thus, the conservation session did not disappoint on that score and the attendees were privy to the facets of the deliberations and decisions that were shaping the treatments of works ranging from the Renaissance to the twentieth century in the Met’s studios.  The presentation reminded us that some of the best results are derived from the collaborative process that takes place between curator and conservator.  Each can counter or corroborate the findings of the other.  It’s quite a satisfying intellectual duet.  The conclusions encountered that afternoon included issues of attribution, savvy acquisitions of works flying beneath the attribution radar and, of course, reversing the sins of "restorers” from generations past before conservation became a science.

            In the area devoted to panel paintings, George Bisacca introduced several of his "patients” and the decision-making process around them.  I came away with practical information on the questions to ask myself regarding cradled panels, but also with regards to the most current practices on the shipping of panels and the creation of sealed micro-climates—the latter by way of a special tape invented by NASA.

            Overall, the session provided the curators a very intellectually engaging topic of primary importance and interest and all the conservators on hand generously shared their time in explaining the challenges of their present projects—all making for a very worthwhile visit.

 

Sue Canterbury

Independent Curator

Minneapolis

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Innovative Conservation

Posted By Claire Schneider, Independent Curator, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Claire Schneider, Independent Curator

 

The panel Innovative Conservation considered the ways technology is helping conservation and is itself challenged by it. Margaret Holben Ellis, a conservation professor at the Institute at NYU discussed the way controlled and repeated use of raking light photography can give in-depth information for works on paper. Lee Ann Daffner, a photo conservator at MoMA discussed an integrated team approach to conserving photographs that centers around a much more through documentation of the object itself, including raking light photographs, paper investigation, and makings notation. Significant energy is spent on recording the state of an object that is so fugitive before (or after) it changes.

 

Of most interest to me as a contemporary curator was the presentation on new media. Joanna Phillips, a new media conservator at the Guggenheim, gave a through and informative talk on how to best care for works in video, film, and slide projects/installations. Having worked with this information five years ago at the Albright-Knox Knox Art when it was just being created, I was eager to hear this presentation.

 

As is now common with conserving contemporary works of art, it is documenting the best "identity” of a work rather than a sense of absolute originality. How does one preserve the experience of walking into a Lucas Samaras room rather than necessarily the original glass. Expensive questionnaires filled out by the museum staff in tandem with the artist play a big part in this. For example, what makes one installation better than the next of the same work of art helps to understand the artist’s decision making. One must also decide what type of equipment is needed from non-dedicated (projector or monitor that can be used with many different works) and dedicated (equipment that is unique and irreplaceable—like slide projectors) to obsolete (box televisions). Of course, technology is always changing, so understanding and keeping on top of this when something goes from being non-dedicated to obsolete is key. I also appreciated the simple reminder to view the DVD or new media piece when it arrives, as no one in the copy chain probably has.

 

What was not discussed and was outside of the preview of the panel, but deserves a possible panel itself, is now to integrate the best practices in the field at museums with limited resources. At the Guggenheim, the Tate, or MoMA, they have dedicated conservators whose primary job is to care for just these matters. At much smaller institutions, this falls to a already over worked registrar and curator. In addition, finding the funds to pay for old soon-to-be-obsolete equipment and maintaining conversions of media are not as exciting as purchasing works of art. With a painting or sculpture, the conservation funds are also hard to find, but with media there is a much smaller window of opportunity. I have thought of ideas to help institutionalize such needs, such a creating a small endowment for media conservation that is instituted with each purchase as part of the each objects "purchase price.” I would love to hear what other colleagues have done with regards to tackling challenges in museums that do not have dedicated staff to handle all of the museum’s responsibilities. How are smaller museums creating the best practices in the field without a full time editor, conservator, development team, etc? How have they adapted the best practices in the field or innovated from where they stand.

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Innovative Conservation

Posted By Lisa Dent, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

AAMC 2011 Conference

Blog Post – Innovative Conservation

Lisa Dent, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Columbus Museum of Art

 

 

Often when working with living artists, the last thing anyone wants to think about is what objects will look like 100 years from now.  Now imagine that you need to also be responsible for the equipment necessary to see it.  This is exactly what Joanna Phillips, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim Museum, has been entrusted to do.  Monday afternoon’s panel, Innovative Conservation, included Phillips, Margaret Holben Ellis  and Lindsey Tyne from the Morgan Library & Museum, and Lee Ann Daffner from MoMA.  While Ellis, Tyne and Daffner focused on the incredible and user-friendly Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) system, that allows conservators to look at work on paper as never before, Phillips’ presentation focused on the care and maintenance of new media work.  As a curator of contemporary art, I can tell you that more and more artists, regardless of their primary media, experiment with time based projects.  In an effort to bring this work to our visitors, curators and conservators are needing to learn about things like hot pixels, 10 bit compressed files, and bad transfers.  Phillips did a beautiful job outlining some of the triumphs and pitfalls of her work.  Artists and dealers are not always as knowledgeable and careful about the media provided for our collections, and it is often up to Phillips to check the master and reassure the curators that what has been purchased is of the best quality available. 

 

One of the particularly helpful moments during Phillips’ presentation was her delineation between three categories of equipment that she believes every museum should have.

 

1)    Non-dedicated, variable equipment – anything that is exchangeable, such as a DVD player that can be connected to a variety of different monitors to play different films and videos.

2)    Dedicated equipment – Is there a part of the artwork that is unique and irreplaceable?  Phillips used a Nam June Paik work in the Guggenheim collection as an example.  Paik signed his name to an amplifier needed for the work, thus making this piece of equipment valuable and irreplaceable.

3)    Shared, obsolete equipment – There can be a variety of pieces of equipment that can be used in different works, but are no longer readily available in stores.  Examples in this category include slide projectors, 16 mm projectors or CRT monitors.

 

I had a very basic question, which Phillips kindly answered quickly and succinctly.  Once a time based work has been acquired, it is important to receive it in a variety of formats and save it in several places.  Getting a 10 bit compressed video file is your best bet for assuring quality.  Then be sure it is stored as an uncompressed file on a server with limited access.  This is in addition to the DVD or Quicktime file that you make for viewing purposes.

 

What can I say, this was an incredibly helpful panel and will be key to how I help to guide our registrars towards the care and maintenance of our new media works for years to come.

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AAMC Online Publishing Panel

Posted By Sarah Eckhardt, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

By

Sarah Eckhardt

 

Nick Honeysett opened his panel presentation to laughter with a graph of the Gartner Hype Cycle. It included the Peak of Inflated Expectations, followed by the Trough of Disillusionment, soon to be replaced (hopefully) by the Slope of Enlightenment before the new "hyped” technology under consideration finally achieves the ultimate Plateau of Productivity.  The audience’s audible response seemed to indicate a mutual recognition of the familiar chimera of technological promises.  Yet, as Nick pointed out, the question remained as to where precisely museums currently fall on the hype cycle in regard to their online publishing expectations and practices. As the presentations proceeded, it became clear to me that the imagined point each person placed on the hype graph most likely had to do with their individual attachment to what Nick termed the Thwack or Thump Factor. An onomatopoeia reference to the physicality of a book’s presence, the Thump Factor encapsulates what Kwame Anthony Appiah admitted in an earlier panel was a fetish for the "aura of the object.” For most curators, the working assumption seemed to be, a book seems "real” whereas websites and online publications somehow seem nebulous and temporary. For example, Rui Guerra showed a chart mapping the point at which online visitors to the Tate Museums thoroughly outnumbered offline visitors. As the "online visitors” graph line shot high above the "offline visitors” someone behind me whispered, "Is that supposed to be a good thing?” That depends on the museum website. As Rui pointed out, these groups don’t necessarily compete with each other. Online visitors may be accessing the site from across the globe while "offline” visitors may have been drawn by an engrossing website experience. For both Rui and Nick, however, the key paradigm shift for cultural organizations involves acknowledging the website as a platform in and of itself and based on the needs of its online users, rather than treating a website as a mere virtual reflection of or advertisement for the architectural site. Both Nick and Rui emphasized that a traditional publication provides static information while an online site provides the opportunity to capitalize on one of the web’s primary advantages: the ability to open a dialogue with an audience and adapt fluidly as the context changes. Rui suggested combining dynamic, changing information, such as press releases and events with seemingly static information such as collections database materials like object descriptions and images, while also providing a set of related links to social network media such as Facebook, Youtube, and Flickr. Suffice it to say, a PDF version of a hardbound book is not the kind of online publication he or Nick are talking about. 

            On the flipside, Ed Marquand had been assigned the task of defending the book. As he duly noted, he didn’t need to feel defensive in a generally sympathetic audience of object fetishists.  Like Nick, Ed acknowledged that the hybrid model of book and online publications were the most likely path forward and he even proposed that the book might benefit in this scenario. Yet his language exposed an inevitable hierarchy: he talked about divvying up the information in a book so that one could "park” the less essential information "somewhere else.” That "somewhere else,” of course, was the ethereal territory of the web. At a later point Rui retorted that the web was not a dumping ground, but rather a space to be curated. The audience laughed when he asked whether we would dump all of our objects at the entrance of our museums. His humorous question, however, gets at the root of the problem: until we accept the validity of an online experience, not as a weaker substitute for a book or a tangential accessory, but rather as a legitimate experience on its own, we will either totter on the edge of the Peak of Inflated Expectations or drown in the Trough of Disillusionment. On the other hand, as Nick emphasized, embracing the potential to actively communicate with an audience via an online publication will also necessarily change the structure of the museum’s organization. Thus, the museum and the web do have to maintain a symbiotic relationship.

My own questions revolve around how the curator’s role will need to evolve to accommodate both. If online publications regarding our collections or exhibitions need to allow for dialogue, will we all need to actively monitor reader comments? Will we be called upon to maintain facebook pages or blogs for our projects? Or will museums develop web specific education departments to effectively play the role of docents in online galleries by offering live feedback to online visitors? And will all of that information strategically flow through editors or will typos and misinformation abound? If we could only summon a virtual labor force to wield what sounds like the never-ending responsibility to meet the demands of a dynamic, fluid, and very real online audience.

Several questions from the conference audience made clear that there is, indeed, still much territory ahead to navigate. How does copyright law work for images of art work in online publications? How do libraries consistently catalogue and archive online publications (especially when they are fluid and dynamic)? Is there an effective business model for online publications? Should museums provide online publications for free or as a benefit of museum membership or charge for varying levels of access? I am sure future AAMC panels will address these questions more specifically as we all attempt to achieve the Plateau of Productivity.

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Publishing in the Digital Age

Posted By Lauren Rabb, University of Arizona, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I should say upfront that concepts such as "open share,” "Google Goggles,” and "rich media” are new to me; and that when I hear the word "publishing” I still automatically think of a book or a catalogue.  But I’m open to learning!  And if I learned anything at this multi-viewpoint presentation, it was that most of my colleagues are like me – confused about what digital publishing is or can be, and a bit wary.

 

Nik Honeysett presented first in this session, and if there was an award for most entertaining presentation at the conference he would win hands-down.  He brought humor, detailed information, and even an admittance of uncertainty to the subject of museums sharing all of their images and data in one portal.  If he didn’t entirely convince me that my museum should immediately throw out our rights and reproductions policies and begin being more open (at least with other institutions), he did come close. 

 

I think that 90% of what Rui Guerra said was technical and over my head, and so to do it justice I’m going to let others tell you what his presentation was about!

 

Ed Marquand, on the other hand, is a man whose work is familiar to me.  He still believes in the good old-fashioned hand-held object that one can pick up and peruse at one’s leisure.  He still loves the joy of flipping pages, the beautiful coffee-table book illustrations, the ability to access information without waiting for the computer to warm up.  Although he acknowledges that times are changing, and the economics of online publishing are hard to resist, and that the quality of information available online is constantly improving – as are the opportunities for utilizing the Internet in new, creative ways, he feels the exhibition catalogue or accompanying book is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  And I, for one, am happy to hear that.


Lauren Rabb, Curator

University of Arizona Museum of Art

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Developing Donor Cultivation Confidence

Posted By Courtney McGowan McNeil, Curator of Art, Telfair Museums, Wednesday, June 8, 2011


 
No matter how interesting a conference session may be, I typically spend most sessions with my notebook dutifully opened on my lap, listening carefully but just jotting down one or two ideas to bring back to the office. I was particularly looking forward to this panel, as I spend a great deal of time working with my institution’s collectors’ society, but I had no way of knowing I would walk out of the session with not one, not two, but three entire pages filled with tightly-scribbled notes. So many great ideas were tossed around that it was difficult to keep track of them all!
 
Katharine DeShaw’s donor development workshop was specific, logical, action-oriented, and made me feel like I had all the tools I needed to walk out of the room and ask the next donor I encountered for a million dollars. Well, perhaps not a million dollars, but the detailed strategies she presented were very empowering. Dedicated development staff are irreplaceable, but this presentation certainly made me see that, from time to time, an "ask” coming from both a development staffer and a curator might be just the inspiration needed to convince a particular donor to commit.
 
The remaining presenters were just as compelling; each one touched on issues that I face regularly. Their discussions left me with a laundry list of new ideas that I look forward to applying at my own museum: steering our young supporters’ group towards sponsorships for particular exhibitions, creating a system that will always notify donors when their work goes on view in our galleries or is loaned to another museum, holding collectors’ dinners in a unique artist’s studio rather than a generic restaurant, and further engaging younger supporters from my own peer group.
 
COURTNEY McGOWAN McNEIL
Curator of Art
mcneilc@telfair.org
w 912.790.8817

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Developing Donor Cultivation Confidence

Posted By Rebecca Elliot, Curatorial Assistant, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

As a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), I was excited to attend this panel; indeed it was a factor in my decision to attend the AAMC conference. I have been fortunate to learn about (and indirectly benefit from) some of the MFAH’s fundraising successes, but was eager to hear perspectives from other institutions. And I was not disappointed, for the panel conveyed a wealth of information.

 

The presentation began with the workshop offered by Katharine De Shaw, which had three parts, moving from more general to more specific advice. First, De Shaw summarized a very enlightening study of high-level philanthropists conducted recently by Bank of America. She provided many statistics concerning donors’ motivations and expectations, thereby grounding her presentation in numbers and facts and communicating her expertise in this area. Next, De Shaw gave a general overview of strategies for success in researching current, former and potential donors; communicating values to them; and acknowledging them. Finally, she detailed 39 steps of soliciting a donation, from scheduling your first meeting with a prospect all the way to continually engaging with them after they’ve given. The level of detail De Shaw offered made her presentation much more valuable than if it had consisted of generalizations and platitudes—which would have been the easy way out of describing the delicate dance that is donor cultivation. My only criticism is that "workshop” is something of a misnomer, because to me "workshop” sounds more interactive, suggesting perhaps small-group discussions where curators troubleshoot specific issues they are having. Perhaps that’s a matter of semantics though.

 

The second part of the presentation was the panel discussion. Jeannine O’Grody and Edgar Marx Jr. talked about patron groups at the Birmingham Museum of Art from the perspectives of a curator and a trustee, respectively. The BMA’s success at engaging its community came through strongly in both their presentations, and it was especially interesting to hear from Marx about what the museum means to him. He made a good poster child for the idea that donor cultivation isn’t just about asking for money—it’s about the sense of fulfillment that trustees gain from being involved with museums. For curators and other museum staff, what we give our audience should be foremost in our minds, not what we take. Teresa Carbone’s comments about fundraising for African American art at the Brooklyn Museum reinforced this point further when she described a program in which contemporary African-American artists host dinners in their studios for high-level patrons. This sounds like a win-win-win situation for the artists, patrons and museum. Paul Johnson also works at the Brooklyn Museum, but to my surprise, he presented about his experiences at the MFAH helping to establish and fundraise for the department of the Arts of the Islamic World. Although I already had some familiarity with this story, I still learned more from his presentation.

 

All of the presenters gave specific advice and concrete examples of successful programs, and it was helpful that they talked about the challenges and rewards of beginning initiatives from scratch, since this may be the most difficult kind of fundraising. Taken together, the presentations delivered much practical information that will inform my approach to donor cultivation when I am charged with that responsibility in the future.

 

Rebecca Elliot

Curatorial Assistant

Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts and Design

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Tags:  donor 

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Donor Cultivation

Posted By Barbara L. Jones, Chief Curator, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blog Entry

Donor Cultivation

 

While I was only able to attend the presentation by Katharine DeShaw from United States Artists during the first half of the session, I found it especially engaging. I’m sure that the development staff of all our institutions already know most of this information, but I learned a great deal that I think will help me when I’m asked to contribute a narrative to fundraising proposals. Hopefully others did as well. I think this part of the session really outlined the nuts and bolts of donor cultivation, presenting data that provided a clear picture of what donors/patrons want from us as museums. Katharine’s ‘39 steps’ gave everyone the ‘how to’ format to conduct an ‘ask’ interview with a prospective donor. That we are all fundraising ambassadors for our museums is so true. You never know when a simple kind gesture might turn into a major gift, which has happened in my museum. I think it is valuable to continue sessions such as this one because they allow us as curators to tread outside our comfort zone and learn about the efforts at work in other parts of our institutions. With arts funding continually shrinking around the country, it is as important as ever that curators are armed with the information needed to assist in this area of development. The title of Katherine’s presentation, Donor Centered Fundraising "It’s Not Just Cocktail Parties…” is so appropriate; as it affects all of us now.

 

Barbara L. Jones

Chief Curator

Westmoreland Museum of American Art

Tags:  donor 

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Donor Cultivation

Posted By Julie Sasse, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Donor Cultivation

Blog by Julie Sasse

 

I found Katharine De Shaw’s introduction to Donor Cultivation very motivating, and whether as curators we like it or not, we are increasingly being asked to cultivate new and existing donors. I was not surprised by the percentages in 2009 for charitable giving—such a large amount from individuals and such a small amount from corporations and next to nothing from government grants. One only needs to read the newspapers to see that we are far from out of the woods economically and the first to go is government funding and corporations. De Shaw confirmed what I already knew from personal experience—that individuals and family foundations should be top priority for an institution seeking funding. Yet what was not discussed was the distribution of this wealth across the country—the smaller the region, the fewer the wealthy people for a given region. It would be interesting to see if the new wealth will remain in the largest cities or if there are pockets of money arising with changes in demographics due to weather or a city’s or region’s political or economic situation.

 

What surprised me was the percentage of philanthropic women—a relatively untapped group as such for our institution identified as such. It would be interesting to know if these women form to make giving consortiums—I know of one in New Mexico, but otherwise I have approached women as individuals, but I now am reminded that such groups exist. Knowing about a source listing for such giving groups would also be helpful.

 

Much of the information that was given in this workshop seems to be of the most use to a development office, but what seems crucial is the partnership/collaborative goal between development and curatorial. I appreciated hearing that to be effective, it is best to meet with a potential donor as a team rather than a curator going out solo. That way the curator can show the passion for the exhibition/project and the development officer can make the ask to allow the curator to connect with the donor on the project level and the development officer on the philanthropic benefits. The steps De Shaw laid out were thorough—preparation, determination to reach your goal, and confidence that is a worthy project seems to be the three top priorities in the ask. I was most impressed with the creative ideas to thank the donors—the idea of have a professional photograph taken with the donor and the artist(s) in a playful and professional pose seems fun and unique. Too often we forget to thank the donors for their gift after the first official letter. My personal practice of inviting some of my top donors to private "art parties,” however casual, was reaffirmed by this talk, and I will continue this practice to connect with them on a personal level.

 

I have long been curious about the process of voting for new acquisitions and bringing in three works or so to choose from, so it was interesting to hear from the Birmingham Museum of Art and their practice of combining their six support groups. That seems to be a daunting task and I applaud them for keeping their groups thinking on the same page and not advocating one collection focus over another. I would assume they already have a strong, predetermined sense of what the groups would like, but the idea of paying for the crating/shipping of three works knowing one or more might go back seems risky, while I understand that many times someone steps up to the plate and purchases the other works for the museum. Likewise, I learned a lot from Edgar Marx, Jr.’s presentation, especially as it relates to the Junior Patrons Group. The "one nail at a time” method is something that might work in a community such as mine that cannot afford the high-dollar donations from all but a few top patrons. I also like that this makes a broader community feel like they contributed to the collection, even if in some small way. All in all, the emphasis on the curator in the process of raising money for exhibitions and collections was gratifying. Too often curators are marginalized for what they can bring to the donor cultivation process, yet still expected to raise a substantial amount for their programs. Acknowledging the team approach makes sense.

 

I was also taken with Paul A. Johnson’s talk about the formation of Friends of the Arts of the Islamic world and came away with good ideas about new focus groups to organize for the benefit of small, but growing collections. A festival sounds like a wonderful way to identify supporters and new audiences. Ultimately, this workshop reminded me that fund raising is a team effort and having a strong vision and a solid plan for how to go after the money is an absolute necessity. Curators cannot wait for the development office to tell them what the plan is—it should start early and with everyone working for the same goal but not working in competition with each other in isolation. Each exhibition or project should have some kind of event or plan that is unique to itself so it does not become repetitive, especially when often the same donors are expected to give over and over. Unique approaches such as these encourage new donors and supporters and also keeps the base group of donors interested.

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Mentoring at the AAMC

Posted By Bobbye Tigerman, Assistant Curator, LACMA, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One of the highlights of every AAMC conference for me is the "mentoring session.” As a junior curator working in the field for less than 7 years, I am paired with a senior curator with over 10 years of experience for an informal conversation. Mentoring in this way is a lot like electronic dating (I would know—that’s how my husband and I met). After learning a little bit about someone by exchanging a few emails and some astute Googling, we meet in person and attempt to have a fairly personal conversation while minimizing the awkwardness of our encounter. This year my mentor was Beth Venn, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and Senior Curator of American Art at the Newark Museum. Unlike in past years, Beth and I don’t work in the same field (I’m a design curator), but that difference didn’t really matter. The same issues about professional development, squaring personal goals with the needs of your institution, and work-life balance apply no matter what field you’re in. Beth’s variety of professional experiences and practical advice helped me think about what kind of goals to set for myself and next steps in my career. Just hearing about someone else’s trajectory—how projects move from concept phase to realization, how to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, and how one job can lead to the next—helped me see the bigger picture. And in a field as small as museum curating, it never hurts to have friends at institutions all around the country!

 

Bobbye Tigerman

Assistant Curator, Decorative Arts and Design

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Tags:  mentoring 

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