Creative direction, art and architecture. Two inspiring lectures. Moving forward…

I had one of the most thought-provoking classes of my Purchase College career yesterday.  In my Intro. to Gallery Management class, our instructor Dr. Jeff Taylor had “curated” a special treat for our class. What a terrific pair of lectures! Each guest speaker was very different from the other and yet each of them consistently engaged the class with thought-provoking delivery. They also got my brain churning and my creativity humming at full speed.

Our first speaker was Creative Director Terri C Smith, of  Franklin Street Works in Stamford, Connecticut (about 25 minutes from Purchase College) (@FranklinStWorks on Twitter, Tumblr).  Her infectious energy and easy way of speaking put us right in her shoes while she explained, “Art is a series of choices. Good art is a series of good choices.”  Down-to-earth in her delivery, she described the real side of curating and  her history from her graduate  curatorial studies at  Bard college to the first notch in her curatorial career at  Cheekwood Museum of Art, in Nashville, Tennessee to the present.  Terri shared the course she followed and the places she worked as she metamorphosed into the successful, exuberant Creative Director she is today. Terri explained the attributes and  skills necessary to artfully and competently curate an interesting, engaging exhibition and gave us a clear, realistic window on how she learned and toiled as all arts managers do. She even shared an unglamorous yet realistic essential trade secret for survival while in the pursuit of a career in the realm of an art profession, advising us to learn to hang and transport art, ensuring employment in times of recession.

Painted doors by Artist & decorative painter Lorraine Chamberlain from upstairs in “

Terri described the necessity to often wear multiple hats and have multiple personae to pull off the roles required, ensuring successful viewer engagement and accurate representation of the art exhibited and the artists who created it.  She showed us pictures of different exhibits she had curated, giving us the back story and even the more interesting technical details, with an upbeat, fun delivery that made you have wanted to be there. She explained both the aesthetic and technical aspects of placement and juxtaposition.  Speaking of a sculpture she had featured, she told of how it was made –  it was “created kind of organically” describing how the the artist took the mold out of the hard case it was in and held it and, “let it slide all over back and forth until it formed on it’s own.” She made us all laugh with, “He painted it with that cool auto paint that changes colors from whichever angle you look at it, but before he did, it looked just like turkey bacon.” She was as easy to listen to as a friend in the cafeteria, yet got her message across. “You need to mix things up to keep visitor’s attention,” and, “Find ways to stop people so they take time to look at things and don’t just walk once around the room and leave.”  She provided an example of inventive exhibition of a book, where it had been previously shown in a plexiglass case, as simply an object, but where she literally took it “out of the box.” To increase interaction, she took copies of the pages and laid them sequentially on a long table, equipped with a rolling chair so one could remain seated, yet progress through the book, rolling to the right while seated without handling the material.  Terri was as real as real could be, speaking of anxiety over exhibitions, from an exhibition actually based on male anxiety to recounting  a possible sticky situation of representation with a Halston exhibition that could have been disastrous had she not double checked her sources, with excellent results, ultimately forging a positive artistic relationship, and producing a successful exhibition. Terri’s realistic portrayal of her progressive journey in the art world from school to the present as a Creative Director was inspiring, and also good for those of us desiring to pursue a similar path in the visual arts with nonprofit organizations or curation for profit. Her fresh delivery and casual confidence combined with her capability to advise us to embrace our humanity and learn from any mistakes was comforting I’m sure to more than just one nervous, blossoming student than me. Ultimately, were given the strong suggestion to be strong, intuitive, creative, flexible and innovative, aware of the fact that unexpected “things happen,”  and inspired to take risks in the name of art because although “there’s probably nothing that hasn’t been done”, she explained, that it’s all in how one looks at it, and our job is to “make them stop and look.”

Next we had New York architect and interior designer Catherine Donnelley of Third Skin Design. She aims “to blur the delineation between art and the built environment to bestow evocative atmospheres.”*  Her excellent mastery of visual representation and the science of design and architecture was apparent within seconds via her choice of concise, high contrast graphics and breathtaking  imagery for her presentation.  Catherine is mildly soft-spoken, yet highly articulate, which demands attention and then sharply pinpoints accurate delivery of  her  information to her enrapt listeners.  Catherine first got our attention explaining how architecture is also the science behind things like the sight lines and trajectories for where cameras should be placed for theft prevention.  She explained how the science of architecture is essential in the management of the ever-essential natural light necessary for most art exhibition, showing us Philip Johnson Glass House, a National Trust Historic Site, explaining the lesser-known technical details of us as future arts managers, like the need for UV (ultraviolet) coatings on the windows to protect the paints from fading on the beautiful pastoral Nicolas Poussin’s Burial of Phocion (click here for their release on the conservation, very interesting) and the implementation of a schedule that rotate the art out to prevent overexposure and the lifting of paint.

Nicolas Poussin, Burial of Phocion, ca.1648

Nicolas Poussin, Burial of Phocion, ca.1648 (image source: Art History 112 Review )

Throughout her eloquent discourse Catherine demonstrated how there is no definitive line that separates art and architecture and that more and more the two are existent in a cohesive, dependent, symbiosis.  She finally proved there is art in architecture and architecture in art by showing  how, like art, architecture could evoke psychological response, such as in the Jewish Museum, in Berlin. Catherine pointed out how at first glance, this structure seems an almost absurd jutting form of irrelevant angles and a very infeasible design.  She provided clarity with her explanation it was designed by Daniel Libeskind with its deep dark descending passageways and eventual uplifting lighted ascending exit, indicating the Jews’ deep descent into darkness and ultimate triumphant survival via angles and manipulations of light and our perception of the space around us.

The Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum Berlin, to the left of the old Kollegienhaus. Source: Wikpedia

Consistently, Catherine reiterated through one beautiful, breathtaking example after another the beneficial codependence of the science of architecture and art and how the two together produce an experience the goes far beyond the visual.

I am inspired and thought my brain might explode on the way to (pick my fiance Ray up in) White Plains.  I have a couple really amazing art-centered ideas that have all been built, brick by mental brick, over the course of the last three years. After these two lectures, a few things came into more clarity and from that, more things are now cropping up in my hyperimagination.  I am looking ahead, and moving forward. Classes like that bring it all together.

*Special thanks to Rye Arts Center, who I linked to above, for the bio on Catherine Donelley.


~ by The Gallery Goddess on November 30, 2012.

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