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Teach like a curator

A curator of an exhibition for a museum or gallery is given the responsibility of selecting the artworks that will be on display. Decisions such as the criteria for selecting, how many artworks, how many different artists, how the artworks are arranged, the wall text, the lighting, and the overall objective for the show are all up to the curator. As a teacher, I have never identified myself in the role of curator. But when I was invited to curate a Fibers exhibition for the University of Central Arkansas’s Baum Gallery, I soon discovered the correlations! I wanted to organize an exhibit that taught my visiting audience about the scope of techniques, materials, and forms that contemporary fiber artists are creating – the media category of my own artwork. How do I share my own enthusiasm and appreciation? How can I engage and convince my audience of the importance and value of contemporary fiber arts? How do I draw them into the exhibition space and hold their attention until they make personal connections and interpretations so that they are satisfied and pleased with the experience? Maybe even changing their perspective and previously held ideas or impressions?

I wish to note what I learned from my curating experience. Filtering down was the hardest part! I researched fiber artists for months. I had notes and lists and categories filling many pages. I had to decide on a theme that I believed represented what I wanted to communicate and what visitors could identify with in some way. I had to select a small number of artists to represent my theme and my goals. Then I had to present the artists’ works in a context that my viewers could acquire new visual information that might lead them to rethink and reflect on their own ideas and opinions.

May we teach like a curator!

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