What it means to curate:
A student curator’s guide to curating on a student budget
By: Rebecca Davison-Mora
Meeting with an artist can be a daunting task, especially when you are on a student budget. It seems sometimes that it will be impossible to help your artist achieve the vision that they so rightfully deserve. When you are both crunched for time, underpaid and full of amazing ideas it is hard to make big compromises. However, there are a few things that I have picked up over the years that have become my go to staples when working with artists.
- Find something interactive to employ in the space. This can be anything from a projection, to a sculpture of found objects, to something as simple as a sketchbook to flip through. Interaction creates a focal point from which you can work from and around. You can do it cheaply and effectively and it brings the viewer into the space so they feel as if they are included in the experience.
- Employ your lighting effectively. Coloured lighting can go very wrong very fast, but if used right it can add a whole other layer to an exhibit. You can easily pick up lighting gels at any photography store. Once you find a gel that works cut it to size duct tape it down. Make sure you pick the right tones, I find it helpful to look at stage lighting for inspiration.
- Do not fall into standard hanging formations. It is easy to standardize hanging, it’s effective, professional and clean. But it’s boring. We’re students and artists, use your imagination. If you have standard paintings find a different way to display them. For example I had an artist with beautiful prints of city- inspired patterns. For the hang we brought in old scaffolding that was no longer useable for actual construction and used it as an apparatus from which to hang. Use the ceiling, the walls, positive and negative space.
- Listen to your artist. You may have a million ideas and they may not like any of them. Start a dialogue, understand their work. Involve them in all aspects of the set up. However, don’t be afraid to throw an idea out there that they might never of thought of. You may spark a whole different direction.
- Bring references. When you go for a hair cut you bring a picture. When you have ideas for a set up, find references of things that you would like to incorporate so that the artist can visualize. It’s important that both of you are on the same page.
- Nails and a hammer are your best friend. The dollar store is your best friend. Thrift stores are your best friend. Spray paint is the love of your life.
- Frames are expensive. You can forgo them in favour of a big nail and a magnet with prints, sketches and photographs.
- Scour the streets. I’m serious. Go look in back alleys, go out on garbage day, try and find things that will enhance the artist’s work. Are they doing an exhibit exploring the relationship between alcoholism and exam stress? Collect empties, make a sculpture, photocopy your failed exams paste them to the wall. Make the effort to fill the space.
- Use your friends/significant others/family members. Shout out to my dad and boyfriend for always helping me with set ups. Buying them a coffee or a beer is way cheaper than hiring someone. If they resist you can always kidnap them.
- Be confident. I started curating 3 years ago with no idea what I was doing. I made a business card, I called my friends. I met random people at bars, got talking and found out they were artists. I worked as an art monitor, I volunteered my time, I learned from doing. If you are unsure of something, look it up. Tell people you are new at this, but never be shy. You are talented, and have good ideas. We’re all doing this because we love it.