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Curating During A Pandemic

Curating is usually thought of as something that happens behind the locked doors of a museum or an art gallery where snobby elites select, organize, and present items or ideas. Although this can be true, curating also involves aspects of project management such as meeting with people, talking through situations, and problem solving. It involves making considerations that avoid harm, and making connections through theme. As of April 2020, I had only co-curated one juried exhibition called Down To The Wick, with my classmate Alexia Mitchell in November 2019. This experience demonstrated to me how challenging it is to curate something well, especially as students with zero budgets.

Curating for a show in physical gallery includes :

Coming up with a theme and rationale, connecting with and/or jurying artists, coordinating art drop offs/ pickups, installation of the work, communication with appropriate community members, design work, layout planning, social media/ promotion, budgeting, restoring gallery back to original state, running the most errands, writing notes to keep track of your notes, etc.

Partial Anecdotes was originally planned to be a physical exhibition in the Anna Leonowens Gallery that showcased research being undertaken by some of the students in NSCAD’s Master of Arts in Art Education program. It would highlight the process and product of each student’s respective areas of investigation and exploration in an attempt to demystify academia. Co-curating Partial Anecdotes was significantly more complex to organize, even before the pandemic, as I was working in a group with five other creative

and thoughtful people. We were in the process of planning the layout of work being submitted, selecting colours for vinyl, and coordinating with artists and researchers involved with the show when we were no longer allowed to access campus and shows at the Anna were no longer allowed to happen in person.

Consulting with the Anna Leonowens Gallery staff allowed us to reclassify our exhibition as a showcase that will be part of an online series. While we are thankful for the Anna’s willingness to adapt to the fastly changing times we are living in, this global pandemic has affected how this project can be accessed and engaged with.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, some people were unable to maintain their curator or artist role within the exhibition. While there has been an unsettling feeling surrounding the future, I believe we made the right decision on how our work should ultimately be presented. The co-curators of the showcase have (after multiple facebook chat video calls) decided that creating a website dedicated to the work being done by students in the MAED program would be the best way for us to introduce ourselves to the wider NSCAD

community while still maintaining social distancing practices. The transition to online platforms hasn’t been as easy as I initially thought it would be. Technology can be tedious and temper-mental to use in an ordinary scenario, but common annoyances can exacerbate anxiety levels when one is dealing with the daily sense of dread that exists during a pandemic. However, online platforms are the safest way to distribute information without also distributing facial droplets carrying the virus.

The work required for the curation of a website includes some of the same things required for a physical exhibition, such as deciding on a theme or topic, communicating with artists, coordinating images and statements from artists, uploading the work onto the platform, designing the website so it is easy to navigate and comprehend, promoting the work, and fostering engagement. Although this was accomplished, it has been challenging to coordinate without being able to discuss ideas with group members face to face.

It can be difficult for one to focus in the best of scenarios, let alone during a pandemic.

Most of us are worrying about finances, far away family members, or the chance of dying from itching your nose. How can we be expected to carry on while our entire lives have been disrupted? I don’t know...Working on a school project seems insignificant when compared with focusing on one’s own safety and the health of loved ones. What remains the most important are the connections we have within our communities and the solidarity to overcome troubling times.

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