THRIVE Studio asked Laura a few questions in preparation for her THRIVE TALK...
What are you going to share with us at THRIVE TALKS?
My talk will be about public galleries and art festivals. I've always worked with artists in public contexts ranging from university galleries to public art festivals to my current role in a city gallery. Each of these areas is its own animal, but there are certainly commonalities. From both an administrative and a curatorial point of view, I hope to share some information about the motivations and practicalities that artists can anticipate when participating in exhibitions and programs in these environments. I'll frame some of these topics biographically as my career path has been far from linear!
What is a weird fact about yourself?
I once ate 72 raw oysters in one sitting.
What is your favourite quote that keeps you motivated or inspired?
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." Samuel Beckett
"Inside every cynical person there is a disappointed idealist." - George Carlin. Maybe more autobiographical than motivational!
What was your first job?
I started working in a bar/restaurant at age 14 and was managing a bar in downtown Toronto by the time I was 23. Slinging pints has taught me a lot about life and people!
What would you love to see more artists doing?
Part of me wants to say "reading the instructions" and part of me wants to say "getting outside the system". Evidently, I'm a walking contradiction.
From a very practical point of view, when you're presenting 15+ exhibitions annually, or working with 30+ artists in a festival, the administrative heft is considerable and it can be a bit soul crushing. No one gets into a career in the arts thinking "I just can't wait to fill out forms and develop spreadsheets!" I know this goes for artists as well, but there's nothing worse than having to chase people for simple pieces of information that they've been asked to provide. This stuff is a burden for everyone, but these details are increasingly necessary to foster functional public platforms for artists to work within, get paid, and present their work in the best light possible. I get it, it's a pain in the ass, but we're all in this together!
I also think that the professionalization/academicization of the art world is creating a prescriptive system for "how to be an artist". Whether its going to art school, applying for funding, developing exhibitions, these frameworks constitute and kind of cultural engineering. I have no illusions about how, as a curator and cultural administrator, I am contributing to that process. However I think this is potentially detrimental and homogenizing for artists. It's a pretty consistent quandry for me: if I represent part of this system, how can I disrupt it? What, if any, are the opportunities are there to use the platform that is available to me to realize a different vision for the system? Where do audiences fit into this? It's a tightrope and I'm never sure I'm balancing it very well.