What do you like about Seattle so far?
Moving from the East Coast, I’m consistently awed by the proximity of snow-covered peaks and the sea. On clear days, when I’m walking home and look out toward downtown and Elliot Bay and see the mountains appear to meet the water, I am moved to stop and take in the view. I am a fan of the early (if shifty) Spring—the Cherry Blossoms on the University of Washington’s quad were a delight and a contrast to a New England landscape still buried in snow. Other civic and cultural standouts for me include curbside food scrap collection, King County Metro Transit bus drivers, the Olympic Sculpture Park, On the Boards, Gas Works Park, and Long Provincial Vietnamese, at which I think I could eat at daily without my taste buds getting bored.
Since Seattle is the caffeinated capital, how do you take your coffee?
Hot and black. On random celebratory occasions and mornings spent waking up around a campfire, I add a bit of Bailey’s or Jameson.
How long have you been curating and what drew you to the profession?
I came to the field professionally in 2008 as a curatorial fellow at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass. I was inspired by the opportunity to be surrounded by art, artists, and those motivated by the social and cultural value of artistic activity and the questions it elicits. Generating dialogue with the public around works of art was a key motivation, which guided me away from a strictly academic environment. While there are many ways to enable such dialogue within organizations and independently, too, a curatorial position has a proximity to works of art that I greatly value. I’m also a person motivated by daily conversations and brainstorming with colleagues and the ecology of a group work culture, so an organization such as the Henry is where I find the most meaning.
What inspired you to become a curator?
I was inspired early on by a belief that art and artists are integral to a healthy society. Being a curator is one role that allows me to help realize this belief. This core value sometimes gets buried underneath the functions of day-to-day work. But, what keeps me professionally and personally invested in curatorial work is the privileged opportunity I have to champion the roles of artists and arts and cultural organizations in the intellectual and cultural vitality of a community.
What are you excited to be working on?
Over the last two months, I’ve been getting acquainted with who the Henry is and how it operates, and its role in the cultural ecology of the University, Seattle, and its impact beyond the city, too. It’s thrilling and challenging to consider how all these factors will shape the future exhibitions program and collections-based initiatives. Most immediately, though, I’m excited to be working with Ann Hamilton as part of the exhibition project team for her upcoming exhibition at the Henry, opening in October. Ann is collaborating with thinkers, makers, and doers of many kinds across the University and Seattle, from UW Special Collections and the Music Department to Olson Kundig Architects and Wave Books. I’m also working as part of a group tasked with mapping the Henry’s collection and developing a strategy for future acquisitions. The idiosyncratic collection and the Henry’s contemporary-focused mission invite interesting questions about the purpose of collecting and how it functions within the context of the Henry.
Do you consider yourself to have an artistic nature?
I do not practice a particular craft, such as making photographs or playing an instrument. And while I’m not an art maker, I do value asking questions of art and facilitating others to realize their artistic visions. Perhaps this inclination to serve a supporting role to artists and telling a story of art objects through written words could be described as my artistic nature in action.
What was the first museum you ever went to?
It’s fascinating what we remember from our past experiences. I have distinct memories of visiting The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida near where I grew up, and an exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures and installations at my local art museum. I also remember early on being transfixed by the work of Gustav Klimt and Frida Kahlo. Although my interests and understanding continue to develop over time with opportunities to see and experience a diversity of work and to gather knowledge from a history of thinkers and conversations, my early experiences still resonate. They launched my interest in the ways works of art can affect us—individually and collectively, and emotionally and intellectually.
What piece of art stole your heart?
An experience as a young adult still fresh in my mind is a trip to the Museo de Reina Sofia in Madrid to see Picasso’s painting Guernica—the artist’s 1937 memorial to the tragic bombing of Guernica, a town in northern Spain, during the Spanish Civil War. Spending time with that monumental painting of bodies in tortured poses confirmed for me that art offers a unique opportunity to reconsider history and human experiences.