• Sophie Olympia

Hitting the Ground Running

When I say "art" or "museum" or "exhibition," what goes through your head? Your heart?

If you're reading this, the triggered emotion or thought is probably a positive one. We "art" people are something of a self-selecting group.

However, for many people - including many of our friends, colleagues, and loved ones - these words strike fear, or a sense of inadequacy, or discomfort. This is in part due to a lack of experience with the art world, but also an immediate response to how the art world often views and treats laypeople.

Art is the oldest form of communication. Its original and primary goal is the convey ideas and emotions, maintain a record, and connect people. So why then, in our modern world, are we so often using it as a tool of division? Wherein lies the threat in making art accessible?

People ask me what I look for in an artist, an exhibition, a particular piece, and my answer is always about a conversation. Decorative art is wonderful; we are all drawn to it in the way we are drawn to pop music. It creates a positive feeling in us, even if we can't quite place it. Every consumer of art brings their own perceptions, ideas, and experiences to what they're seeing. Those influence everything they see, how they see it, and how they consume it; irrelevant of an artist's specific purpose, each of us see something different. In all of this, how is there still room for exclusion? Shouldn't we be trying to expand the parameters of the conversation?

Academic work will always be important and relevant, but do our curatorial notes and visitor guides have to be brimming with obscure language or references? What if there was a body of text for all art that was designed for the layperson to engage, learn, and enjoy, the way that we "art" people engage, learn, and enjoy?

This is not, of course, only about the consumers and viewers of art, but about artists, curators, institutions. It's about who feels comfortable at our shows, who buys and collects (and feels invited to buy and collect), who visits museums of their own volition, and who pursues careers in the arts.

And so this is how I approach my work in the art world, as a curator, consultant, advisor, agent, manager, collector. Maybe it's the former preschool teacher in me, but I want to find a way to make it all accessible and engaging for all viewers. I want every person I meet to feel that they have a role in the ongoing conversation that is so essential to our cultural discourse, locally, nationally, internationally. The artists I work with are telling a story (or multiple), their work screaming it loud, and it's my job to make sure that as many people as possible connect with those stories.

#art #contemporaryart #artcurator #contemporaryartcurator #accessibility #artcollector #culturaldiscourse


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