Workshop – The Questions of Curating

In March 2018, Essay’d facilitated The Questions of Curating – a curatorial workshop over three weekends at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, funded by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation

During the workshop, participants developed curatorial concepts and then worked collectively to develop these concepts by discussing them via questions such as:

Why is it important to do this show at this moment in time? What are the key ideas and texts that make up the conceptual framework of the show? What is the audience you’re hoping to reach? What artists/artworks/artifacts are under consideration for the show? What is the relationship between the show and the space? What is the role of secondary programming? What will happen to the exhibition when it ends? What’s going to provide the “crackle in the air.”

In the final weekend, participants were given the opportunity to present an exhibition proposal to leading area curators. Subsequently, workshop participants continued to meet and produce exhibitions such as the ones below:

Quotes from workshop participants

“I enrolled in “The Questions of Curating” workshop because organizing exhibitions was something I have always wanted to do however did not have the group support or feedback to feel confident in the process. Other major cities offer workshops in curatorial studies and there has not been much by way of that in Detroit, which is why the workshop was so vital.

Mind Body – an exhibition at the Hotel Yorba on Detroit’s Southwest side, curated by workshop participants Olivia Gilmore and Nikki Roach

Through working with Steve, I was given the opportunity to guest curate the Wirecar Auto Workers installation at the Anton Art Center and complete a published piece on artist William Marcellus Armstrong, for Essay’d. These experiences have gotten me back on the track I felt like I was on when I was living in Brooklyn, NY. After moving to Detroit in 2014, I felt the community and momentum I had gained in New York was difficult to replicate or find here. I am feeling more confident in moving forward with my interests in Detroit.”

Olivia Gilmore

“The Essay’d workshop, Questions of Curating, opened the door into arts curating and inspired an expanded inquiry into the art, artists and art processes of Detroit. Returning to Michigan after nearly two decades away, I was eager to get involved with the Detroit art community but unsure how to do it. Through the workshop, I met a mix of artists, emerging curators, and established arts professionals. A group of us, Olivia Gilmore, Scott McCabe, and Nikki Roach started meeting after the workshop to discuss our curating ideas, share artists, potential space information, and brainstorm ideas. As a result of the processes introduced during the workshop and our continued meetings, we threw a small food fight – revisiting a performance art/social experiment I’d originally conceived of in Brooklyn, New York. We submitted a grant application to the Knight Foundation to potentially expand on the food fights as a community art project touching upon ideas of food scarcity, food access, consumption, societal constructs surrounding food and interpersonal boundaries. Olivia Gilmore, Scott McCabe and I have also tentatively formed an art collaborative, Super Liminal, through which we’ve pursued potential studio/exhibition space. The way the workshop established a base to form connections while providing a framework for the curation process is invaluable to nourishing the Detroit art community.”

Kristine Patnugot

“After attending the first round of The Questions of Curating workshops earlier this year, I had the opportunity to connect with local curators, artists and educators. Through the process of creating our exhibition proposals as a group and watching them develop over the course of a few weeks, we became increasingly invested in each other’s work. Many of us have stayed in close contact since, attending each other’s exhibitions, and sharing information on relevant artists and opportunities. I have benefited greatly from the feedback of this newly formed community and from the exposure to more experienced curators who co-facilitated workshops along with Steve Panton. I feel confident now that my proposal writing is more concise, structured and compelling. Ultimately these workshops help demystify the artworld for people without curatorial experience, making galleries and museums more accessible for anyone to navigate.”

Shanna Merola

“The Essay’d art curation workshop provided me with valuable insights into the creation of persuasive exhibition proposals as well as what it takes to create gallery exhibits that are both interesting and feasible on a small budget. The down-to-earth, collaborative nature of the workshop was a great environment for developing my initial concepts and left me feeling confident that creating my own exhibitions was a truly achievable goal. Its format also allowed me to get to know the other participants, several of whom I continue to work with to this day. If not for Essay’d it’s extremely unlikely that I would have met any of them.

If and when I curate my first art exhibition it will be due entirely to my participation in the Essay’d art curation workshop.”

Scott McCabe

“The curatorial workshop sponsored by Essay’d has provided me a much deeper understanding of what it takes to curate an exhibition for a gallery space.

I then had the opportunity to put into practice some of what I learned in the workshop when I curated the gallery space at the Anton Art Center for Elizabeth Youngblood. Working closely with the artist we made a preliminary selection of work which was the edited even further so that her work could be advantageously shown.”

Carla Anderson

“The Essay’d curatorial workshop has broadened my network of like-minded cultural producers within the City of Detroit. I have strengthened social and professional bonds by working with other participants in a collaborative fashion. From the initial conception of my exhibition to exploring supporting programming, my efforts have been aided by the creative ideas of other workshop participants. In addition, the development of my exhibition idea has been guided by our workshop facilitator, Steve Panton. Steve encourages us to explore not only the philosophical and aesthetic considerations of exhibition making, but also the financial and practical aspects of bringing an exhibition to life.

Based on the suggestions of fellow workshop participants and Steve Panton, I have been introduced to a number of new artists’ work. Likewise, I have suggested artists I know to other workshop participants. This exchange of knowledge has been the most rewarding aspect of the workshop and I intend to build upon the relationships made during this educational experience.”

Gina Iacobelli