Curator, Ingrid Goetz, at work. Photo Credit: Liesbeth Lenaerts
Sure, I had applied for it, but having studied and volunteered in the Arts and Media sectors for years, I had thrown my hat in the ring knowing full well that competition for internships and volunteer opportunities in these industries can be just as fierce as for a paid position. Add to that the fact that I had read up on the previous Curators-in-Residence and seen their extensive lists of achievements, not least of which was that each seemed to have already graduated from a Masters in Curatorial Studies, where I had no experience in curating whatsoever. I felt hugely out of my depth, but having been given this amazing opportunity, I was determined to make the most of it.
As a youth organisation, Carclew seeks to showcase the work of emerging artists aged 26 or under. I found that my first and biggest challenge was finding those artists. I scoured the internet, spoke with friends who are artists, visited various local art schools and did my best to network effectively. Feeling as though I was struggling, I spoke with the team at Carclew and they set up a meeting with the previous Curator-in-Residence, Lauren Mustillo. This was a huge help as she was able to tell me how she had gone about organising exhibitions and communicating with artists, as well as practical tips on using the hanging systems in the foyer space and providing me with a template for writing floorsheets. I’ve been lucky to have another mentor, Melinda Rankin, curator at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, who has been very generous in her encouragement and giving me feedback on ideas and written work. She has also given me the opportunity to go up to Murray Bridge and help with the hanging of work up there, which really is the best way to learn.
Carclew building. Photo taken from Carclew website
I’m currently in the midst of putting together my second exhibition, and the age criteria remains my biggest hurdle – it’s not always easy to judge how old someone is and it can be really disappointing to find an artist who perfectly fits your theme, only to find that they are too old! After finding artists who fit the criteria and had work available that would tie into my chosen theme, the next step was to organise for the artworks to be dropped off and for images and information about the artwork to be sent through for marketing and the creation of a floorsheet.
Once all the artwork was delivered, it was time to hang it. For my first exhibition I was lucky enough to have one of my artists and amazing friends, Seirian Kitchener, come in and help me with the hang. She’d hung exhibitions before and was able to give me great advice. For instance, I had a row of about six artworks of various sizes to hang on one wall, and I was debating whether to hang them so that they hung with the bottom of each work in a straight line, or so that they all hung on the same mid-line (meaning that the bottom of each piece would be at a different height). Seirian suggested that in her experience they would look better hung all on the same mid-line, and of course she was right! Something else I had never considered was the merits of hanging work from a hanging wire system versus from a hook nailed into the wall. As Carclew is a heritage listed building, I can’t actually bang a nail into the wall, but it’s certainly worth knowing the pros and cons of a wire hanging system and that’s not something I would have considered before now. It’s being confronted with small questions such as these that help me to learn, and what makes this experience so invaluable.
Ingrid at work. Photo credit: Liesbeth Lenaerts
I’ve definitely discovered that being a curator is much more than hanging the artworks on the wall. In reality it’s all about communication and organisation. You’re the conduit through which information travels – you communicate with the artists, you pass along relevant information to the organisation (in my case, Carclew), you need to be thinking about marketing, mailing lists, opening nights, artwork drop off, collection, storage, insurance…
But when you meet and make positive connections with the artists, when the artwork is up on the wall, when people come to your exhibition opening – that’s a truly great feeling.
– Ingrid Goetz
If you are an emerging artist aged 26 or under and in the first 5 years of your art practice, please feel free to get in touch with me at ingrid.goetz @ internode.on.net.