Retrospection

About a year ago we began this blog. It served a few different purposes; to spotlight artists and supplementary programs, to expand conversations about our exhibitions beyond our gallery walls, and to give a new intern something to do. That intern was me, a fresh SAIC graduate coming off the high of non-stop academic writing and eager to gain experience in museums.

EAM, which was recommended to me by my thesis advisor and would-be EAM Biennial participant Rhoda Rosen, was about to amp up its digital presence and was looking for someone dedicated to launch the  blog. I eagerly accepted the opportunity, and for three months (the regular interval for an internship) I wrote weekly posts on varying topics. The most interesting for me were the interviews with artists in last year’s exhibition New American Paintings: Midwest Edition. Each of the four interviews I conducted were unique and insightful, and I really got a sense that the interviewees were both surprised and challenged by the questions asked of them, and happy to oblige my curiosity about their respective work and practices.

Despite going to art school, these interviews felt as if I was having my first real connection with artists. They fed the urge to continue asking questions and discovering the intricate networks that comprise contemporary art practices. Fortunately, I was asked to stay on at EAM to assist with rotating exhibitions, and was able to continue expanding my knowledge of contemporary art, artists and discourse.

Little did I know when conducting interviews with NAP artists that I would be offered the opportunity to be the curatorial assistant working on 2016’s iteration of the exhibition. I was put in charge of handling logistics for the 41 published artists from all over eight states in the Midwest six months ago.

Over endless emails, conversations and changes in schedule, space and responsibility, I took charge of some important curatorial decisions, resulting in my touch being left on the exhibition’s layout and concept. I also authored the essay for the gallery brochure. Thanks to my boss and EAM chief curator Staci’s patience and guidance, 2016’s New American Paintings: Midwest Edition has come to fruition. It came together as a complete group effort, and through all the work of the participating 39 artists and the EAM staff, the exhibition can be viewed through the summer until August 28. It features work that is intriguing, challenging, thoughtful and beautiful, and I am more than honored to have taken part in its organization.

The opening of NAP concludes my fulfilling run at EAM. While I’m sad to leave, I am overjoyed that I have had the complex experience of working at a small art institution and the relationships that it fostered. From starting this blog to organizing a large exhibition, I'll slip into the next thing coming.

Peter Guardalabene