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AAMC Panel at CAA
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The panel, Exploring New Models of Curatorial Scholarship, will be moderated by AAMC President, Emily Ballew Neff. As an Affiliated Organization Session, one does not need to be registered for CAA to attend, the session is open to all.

When: 2/11/2015
12:30 PM
Where: Hilton Hotel NYC
1335 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 
United States

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The Association of Art Museum Curators will host an Affiliate Organization Session at the 2015 College Art Association’s (CAA) Conference. The panel, Exploring New Models of Curatorial Scholarship, will be moderated by AAMC President, Emily Ballew Neff.  

The session panelists will examine old and new approaches to curatorial scholarship, including but not limited to the use of newer technologies and scientific methods, and the potential impact of these practices on the very nature and purpose of the art museum. The session panelists include, heather ahtone, James T. Bialac Assistant Curator of Native American and non-Western Art, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma; Amanda Donnan, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Carnegie Museum of Art; Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, The James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Chief Curator, Peabody Essex Museum; and Kimberly Orcutt, Independent Scholar.

The AAMC Session, Exploring New Models of Curatorial Scholarship, will be held on February 11, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm, Sutton Parlor South, Hilton Hotel, NYC.  No registration (to AAMC or CAA) is necessary, and the session is open to all.

Session Summary

The myth of the lone genius breaking new ground resonates in the art world not only around the artist but also in the realm of curatorial practice. In fact, curators, like artists, have long enjoyed collaborative relationships with others who help facilitate their work or who are active partners in it, such as other curators, conservators, academics, educators, collectors, designers and gallerists. Today, a new generation of curators, the so-called digital natives, are bringing new practices of scholarship to the field. Art historical research using new technologies, such as mapping techniques and data mining, offer rich possibilities for modeling current curatorial scholarship.

(listed alphabetically)

heather ahtone, James T. Bialac Assistant Curator of Native American and non-Western Art, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma

Currently the James T. Bialac Asst. Curator of Native American & Non-Western Art at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, the primary focus of heather's research and writing has been to examine how contemporary Indigenous art intersects tribal cultures and traditional knowledge. This has included curating contemporary art exhibits, serving as instructor for classes on Native science and art history, and researching the evolution of tribal design usage and materials.  She is developing an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing Indigenous art that integrates tribal place-based knowledge of the environment and how this is incorporated, within their cosmologies and philosophies, then interpreted into contemporary Indigenous art. Previous employment has included the OU School of Geology & Geophysics, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Southwestern Association of Indian Art, and the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum (nee Museum of Contemporary Native Art). She is committed to supporting the local Oklahoma art and tribal communities. She is a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and has strong family ties to the Choctaw and Kiowa communities.

Abstract: Indigenous Paradigms: Considering the art of Marie Watt
Postmodernism promised to open up the canon of art history to include those artists who had been disenfranchised, expunging the Western cultural limitations that had been employed to build the classical and modernist traditions. What Indigenous American artists have found is that though their work is entering the contemporary discourse, it is largely analyzed without the employment of a framework that addresses the cultural and historical narrative with which the artists’ are working. The critical gap that exists in the analysis of Indigenous American arts can be attributed to the missing decoder for the heavily coded visual arts that is an important cultural inheritance. This paper will propose a framework that examines the relationship between traditional tribal cultures, cosmologies, and natural sciences embodied within tribal narratives, and the artists’ use of material and designs to express this knowledge as art. Through a case study analysis of work by Marie Watt (Seneca, b. 1967), the potential of this framework will be explored as a means of understanding contemporary Indigenous art. My intention for developing this framework is that it can potentially benefit both the interpretation of contemporary Native American art and create a means for the engagement between viewer and object that transcends the barriers of cultural exchange.


Amanda Donnan, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Carnegie Museum of Art

Amanda Donnan is assistant curator of contemporary art at Carnegie Museum of Art. She was assistant curator of the 2013 Carnegie International, and organized Jacqueline Humphries (forthcoming 2015; traveling to Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans); Susan Philipsz: One and the Same (2013), Duncan Campbell (2012), and James Lee Byars at Carnegie Museum of Art (2010; co-curated with Dan Byers) for CMOA’s Forum series. As co-director of the museum’s A.W. Mellon Time-Based Media Project, she is developing a number of public-facing initiatives including an exhibition, book, web-archive, screening series, and symposium. Before joining CMOA’s staff in 2009, Amanda was production coordinator at Art21, Inc. She holds an M.A. in Art History and Criticism from Stony Brook University, and a B.F.A. and B.S. in Visual Arts and Art Education for Museums, respectively, from The Pennsylvania State University.

Abstract: Visual(ized) Culture: Mapping Artists, Objects, and Institutions Across Time and Space
This talk will introduce two digital tools currently under development at Carnegie Museum of Art and consider their potential applications for curatorial and art historical research. The first program, Art Tracks: The Provenance Visualization Project, will envisage the lifespan of art objects from creation to the present by structuring provenance and exhibition history data. Users will be able to create dynamic visualizations to answer (or raise new) questions about how, where, and when objects intersected with various collectors, audiences, other artworks, and historic world events. The second program, Cinema Circuit, will visualize the screening tour schedules—and by extension, the shifting institutional support network—of avant-garde filmmakers utilizing data from the Film and Video Makers Travel Sheeta monthly circular that CMOA’s groundbreaking Film Section distributed to alt cinemas, museums, media centers, and universities across the country between 1973 and 2003. Both programs are intended to become open source resources and repositories for documentation and ephemera.

Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, The James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Chief Curator, Peabody Essex Museum

Since 2003, Hartigan has led an innovative, ambitious and award-winning curatorial and exhibition program at the Peabody Essex Museum, where she also oversees the museum’s publishing, exhibition design, registration, collection management and conservation departments. The leading scholar on American artist Joseph Cornell, Hartigan’s expertise in American art, especially in modern, folk and outsider, and African American art, have yielded numerous widely recognized exhibitions and publications. Prior to joining PEM, Hartigan was chief curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in Washington, D.C., where she built the internationally recognized collections of American folk art and African American art and led a major acquisitions initiative for modern and contemporary art.

Abstract: Nurturing a Brain Trust
The Peabody Essex Museum strives to create experiences that transform people’s lives. Increasing knowledge, enriching the spirit, engaging the mind, and stimulating the senses are all pathways to this aspirational outcome—not just for our audience but also for our staff as agents of change and creativity. This means taking a different approach to generating, selecting and implementing ideas for research, exhibitions, publishing, and programming. I will focus on two of our key strategies to this end. Curatorially, we have adopted the design world’s use of the ideation process to enhance and accelerate our capacity for innovative, interdisciplinary thought leadership. For similar reasons, we have implemented a staff-wide initiative to research non-art historical topics like globalism, experiential design, storytelling and narrative, demographics, and neuroscientific phenomena through directed independent reading, seminars and interaction with experts from diverse disciplines.  In place for about two years, these initiatives are demonstrably changing how and why we conduct research and interpret ideas as transformative experiences.


Kimberly Orcutt, Independent Scholar

Kimberly Orcutt has organized exhibitions on a variety of topics, including colonial portraits, the sculptor John Rogers, George Bellows, John Singleton Copley, and the contentious relationship between William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. She was Assistant Curator of American Art at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum and she served as Henry Luce Foundation Curator of American Art at the New-York Historical Society, where she co-curated the award-winning exhibition The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and RevolutionOrcutt holds a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where she wrote her dissertation on American art at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. She has published and lectured extensively on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American art, and is a past Chair of the Association of Historians of American Art.

Abstract: Creativity and Collaboration in the Data Mines
At the most basic level, computers help us by quickly performing mundane tasks, such as sorting and organizing, allowing us to concentrate on the creative work of analysis and insight. While there are many exciting new projects that exploit sophisticated technological capabilities, there are also ways to use simple tools in day-to-day curatorial practice to enhance collaboration and make individual scholarly efforts both more creative and more efficient. Approaching research as a form of data mining, common software can be used to build a database of research notes sorted by topic. Paradoxically, digitizing these bits of information promotes more creative scholarship, since the notes can be randomized or sorted in multiple ways that foster new connections. Just as important, they can be easily shared with colleagues, so that multiple contributors have quick and easy access to the full body of knowledge on their area of focus. My talk will describe how this simple system proved to be an invaluable tool in working with a large number of contributors on the exhibition The Armory Show at 100, and will suggest how this approach could foster new ways of sharing research and knowledge.


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