The final exam was to curate an exhibit. I was very excited even with challenging specifications: it had to have at least 75 pieces selected from a location anywhere in the world that was not a museum or gallery, and it had to be all living artists. I was now completely out of my comfort zone.
I decided to accept the challenge. For a couple of weeks, I stewed over a theme. I considered, and discarded, many options. Finally, in the middle of the night, it hit me. I would call it “Tossed and Found” and would focus on art made from recycled materials. The research took about two months and I really got into it. I was still tweaking it the night before the presentation was due.
The presentation was a huge success, and the professor has used it for the last couple of years as an example of a model presentation, I’m quite proud of that. Most of all I was able to do something that scared me, and it helped me grow.
Last summer during the pandemic, I was looking for ways to keep busy, stay connected and keep up my research skills. Why not try something that I would never get to do in my career; I decided to live the life of a curator vicariously. Of course, these kinds of things are much more fun when others participate so I presented the idea to the National Docents Forum Facebook group. I figured if eight to ten people were interested, I’d be thrilled. Almost 50 people agreed it was a great idea and the Curator’s Club was born! We decided to get together on Zoom, and I wrote up some guidelines to help navigate the curatorial assignment. It did not take long before several people began selecting themes which were as varied as our docents. How about “Revival of the Fittest: An Overview of Western Decorative Arts Styles from the 19th Century,” or “Identity: Changes in Portraits of Children, 1800-2000?”. We have already enjoyed two presentations that I personally believe would impress even professional curators, “Voices for the Millennium: Political and Environmental Responses Through Art,” and “Looking at Visual Art Through the Sound of Music.”
The scope of the Curator’s Club has also expanded. We plan on reading books with subject matter that is more technical than something you might read in a regular book group such as the history of frames or why paintings are titled as they are.
I believe in the power of connection and the idea that education is not something that stops because of age…or even a pandemic. As Michealangelo Buonarroti once opined, “I am still learning.”