As the Museum Fellow at the Samek, I am given the opportunity to curate two exhibitions in the downtown gallery space, one per year of my tenure. Each exhibition carries its own constraints. For example my first exhibition, Pause + Effect, required that I pull only from the Samek permanent collection. It encouraged me to engage with the collection beyond cursory acquaintance, to fine tune my concept and the pieces I chose to tell that visual story. Next time, I can look beyond the walls of storage and bring in an outside artist.
Although my second exhibition will not open until next summer, the preparations begin now. I have a few ideas going in… well, if I’m being honest I have some general notions, but I feel no cause for concern. Aside from certain prescribed restrictions (like a budget), I like the openness of possibility at early planning stages; it keeps you flexible and adaptable to change. I had only a few requirements in mind as I began hunting: I wanted a solo exhibition, ideally by a lesser known contemporary artist, and I wanted to work with a different medium from my first exhibition.
I follow a lot of art, art history, and museum web site and blogs, and my list of possible artists and exhibition ideas grows with every passing round of emails and perusal clicks. However, I wanted an artist whose work I’d seen in person. Luckily, Lewisburg is but a few hours’ drive from art epicenters like New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and every year the fall season predictably swells with a plethora of open studios, gallery shows, and contemporary exhibitions at and around all of these locales.
I began by researching each city’s exhibition schedules, strategically plotting which galleries/artists/shows held both a general interest for me, and solo exhibition potential. This week I headed to Philadelphia to visit The Fabric Workshop, The Philadelphia Art Alliance, and a smattering of galleries and co-op run artist spaces in the Callowhill neighborhood.
In terms of selection, I utilize a simple mantra: does the piece generate meaning? Once you’re introduced to a work of art, does it lead you through and beyond itself in a thoughtful and meaningful way? Does the artist communicate something through their work? Do you find yourself asking questions? Making connections? Wanting to know more? I get really excited when I encounter a piece that seamlessly tips me into inquiry, and in my opinion, the activation of intellectual curiosity is a defining attribute of an artist whose work I want to exhibit.
I’m excited to report that, not only did I see some great work this week, but I’ve finalized my list of artists that I’d like to bring to the museum. From here, I’ll begin contacting the artists or the gallery that represents them, to see if their work is available. Stay tuned to our exhibition schedule to find out who will be coming to the Downtown Gallery next summer!