Exploring the New Brunswick Art Bank, no. 3: The Process
Beaverbrook Art GalleryFebruary 2, 20190 Comments
Three emerging curators, with support from our Manager of Collections and Exhibitions, John Leroux, have been busy working on the upcoming exhibition celebrating 50 years of the New Brunswick Art Bank. Only two weeks until the exhibition opens at the Gallery, and until then we’re learning all we can about the process and works. Read on for some of our conversation with Emma, Erin and Emilie about the process of choosing the works for the NB Art Bank exhibition.
This is a big exhibition, drawn from an even bigger collection. And it was an occasion for you to learn more about, and develop your skills in, the curatorial process. Can you walk us through how the whole thing took shape?
Emma: “In the beginning, we were gaining our footing into the project. In our first week, Emilie, Erin and I went to look through the Art Bank collection at Marysville Place. To develop exhibition themes and essay topics, we began doing research, looking through the provincial archives, readings texts and practicing writing art reviews and analysis. We took several trips together and met with art professionals in Saint John, Moncton, Sackville, Fredericton and Charlottetown.”
Emilie: “We did several writing activities. We explored the sociopolitical climate of the 1960s through the lenses of various cultures, to better understand the context in which the Art Bank started and how it developed through the years. We also explored the provincial archives. Mostly we had a lot of discussion about New Brunswick, how we saw the province, its future, our future in the province, and how to interpret these issues that we believe are important to our generation and future generations through our distinct voices.”
Erin: “We had a lot to cover in 6 months, so we've tried to learn as much as we could about the artists in the collection, and how the Art Bank has operated since it began. We looked at photos of every piece of artwork in the NB Art Bank collection (many times!). From there, we wrote quite a bit about our impression of the collection, and what stood out for us. The three of us explored many possible ways of selecting and exhibiting the artwork collaboratively.”
Emma: “Through countless conversations, we developed the key themes of the show, which are: voices, ecosystems, and new futures. We looked through slide images of the collection and made our first selection; then we edited, added more works, and then edited some more, and so on. Finally, we decided on the title for the exhibition: Everything is Gonna Be Fine.”
What is something you learned about the curatorial process throughout this project?
Emilie: “The many steps involved, and the importance of thinking about the viewer experience. It also helped a lot being artists ourselves. The process of curating an exhibition is almost the same process as being an artist, to me: we focus on the viewer’s experience and the message we want the viewer to get.”
Erin: “That it is not the same for every curator or institution. There are so many different ways of exhibiting and writing about art and artists, and the decisions you make as a curator can change how people react or engage with an artwork.”
It sounds like it was quite the process. What was the most important thing you learned while working on this exhibition?
Erin: “I already knew about many of the artists who have artwork in the Art Bank, but I never had a chance to learn more about their histories and practices. It was a great opportunity to learn more about not only New Brunswick artists, but also the history of the province in the last 50 years.”
Emilie: “I think the most important thing is that through our distinct voices, we have learned about each other and about our communities in New Brunswick. This project was a great learning experience at a personal level. It allowed me to understand many things about New Brunswick, and helped me appreciate the place I grew up. I discovered some important artists that I had never heard of, but who have made an important impact in the province.”
Emma: “I have learned more about the history of the New Brunswick’s Art Bank, what its purpose is and how it functions, and how it supports some of New Brunswick’s artists and their culture. I have learned more about art and culture in New Brunswick and how to access it. I have also learned to better collaborate with other people; while this project was a big learning curve at first, it has run fairly seamlessly, working with Emilie and Erin. We can get so much done, working as a team.”
Psi-kekw keti mewi/ Tout va bien aller/ Everything is gonna be fine/ Wela'sitew na opens at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery on February 16th, at 4:00 pm with a public reception.
Plus: Join the curators for a special curator tour and talk on February 21 at 7:00 PM. This event is free and open to the public.