Origin of the Questions of Curating Workshop

The Questions of Curating workshop is based on a process that was developed to collaboratively produce exhibitions at 2739 Edwin and 9338 Campau Galleries. It has its origins in the experience of producing ~50 shows, as well as influences from various other curatorial frameworks.

Among the exhibitions that were developed using the process were We Don’t All Live Under the Same Sky, which was produced in collaboration with a group of artists who were serving long sentences in the Michigan prison system, and Fredy Perlman and the Detroit Print Co-op , which was produced in collaboration with Professor Danielle Aubert.

Projects originating at the galleries went on to be shown at the Detroit Institute of Arts, MOCAD, the Cranbrook Museum of Art, the International Sculpture Center, and the Kennedy Museum in Athens, Ohio. In 2015, 9338 Campau was the only independent gallery to have a show listed in the Hyperallergic Top 10+3 Exhibitions across the US for The Visibility of Labor, an exhibition by Tsz Yan Ng.

The process used at 9338 Campau translated easily into a workshop format, and Essay’d obtained funding from the Erb Foundation to run “Questions of Curating” workshops at MOCAD in 2018 and 2019. Among the notable exhibitions that emerged from these workshops were “MIND BODY” an exhibition curated by Olivia Gilmore and Nikki Roach at the Hotel Yorba, and “A Manifest of Ipseities” an exhibition curated by Jetshri Bhadviya at 333 Midland Gallery.

In 2020, the pandemic led to a focus on online curating, and Essay’d worked with Pat Elifritz, Curator of New Media and Technology at MOCAD to migrate the workshop into the Slack platform. This allowed a broader geographic reach and a collaboration platform that was available 24/7. Among the online exhibitions that emerged from the Questions of Online Curating workshop were Partial Witness curated by Tirtza Even and Toby Millman and the Arab Amp Gathering curated by Leyya Mona Tawil.

Subsequent workshops have continued to use the online platform Slack but have focussed on specific subject areas, allow participants to collaborate based not just on a common process but also on a common area of interest. To date, Questions of Curating in Ecology, and Questions of Curating in Archives, Libraries, and Narrative workshops have been run. The latter workshop was run in conjunction with the exhibitions in MOCAD’s winter 2021 season.