By Sean Alday
Project:Curate! is a part of NURTUREart’s Education Program headed by Molly O’Brien. The show was curated by Miguel Lopez, Cearia Janicki, Jazmin Luna, Chastity Rodriguez, and Yadria Gomez of Juan Morel Campos Secondary School. These students worked with the Director of Flux Factory Christina Vassallo and their teacher Denise Martinez to put together the show.
Some had participated during last year’s Project:Curate! and helped along the discussion in the classroom of what curating actually meant. At first the general idea was that to be a curator meant that one was like a movie director or producer. Which is to say that dictates would be given and followed accordingly.
According to Christina Vassallo, the moment when curation became distinct was during the discussions concerning the theme and the wording of the open call. The students that we spoke with were very insistent that Cearia Janicki had come up with the title “Juxtacombo” which gave them a nucleus to attach the democratically chosen theme.
The theme of the show commented on jarring inconsistencies found in early 21st century life. On the ground were raised platforms featuring patterns reminiscent of the Islamic golden age when modern algebra was developed and a world-history preserved, walking closer, you realize that these patterns are encased in a glass frame and made with sugar-coated cereal. Personally, I found the swings between a childhood spent watching Saturday-morning-cartoons eating cereal and the transition into adolescence in 2001 to be sublimely affecting and present in the work.
The Assemblyman and myself found ourselves talking about our grandmothers while standing over one piece. Definitely a symptom of the “potential for unintended interpretations.”
The students chose the works on display (at NURTUREart until June 29th) out of over one hundred submissions from both national and international artists. They installed the work and each reported a similar feeling of elation when calling it a “cool experience.” While curation is cool, it says something that these young adults were able to work together to put on a dense, mature, and yet still playful art show.
Or, as Molly O’Brien put it:
“The students think they are learning about contemporary art and curation- and they do. Most of the students have little idea what curating is when they start, and learn a lot throughout the year to the point that they really own the curator role.
But the program is really about teaching them larger lessons and preparing them for life after high school. They are held accountable for things and (eventually) learn how to show up on time. They learn how to work as a
team. They learn how to interact with adults- Christina, the artists, and the staff of NURTUREart. This program gives them a voice, but also teaches them how to back up their opinions.
The students were definitely challenged this year, it isn’t an easy thing to do- a group of teenagers curating a show- and Christina held them to high expectations. They are given this power and treated like adults throughout the process. Every year it is amazing to witness this growth in the students.”
Every student will repeatedly hear during their school career about the “real world.” Nothing prepares you for that except jumping in feet first. This program seems to offer a stepping stone between being a herd of cats to becoming herders themselves.