Greetings fellow Thrivesters!
This is the last of my 7 Questions for 7 Artists Series for Thrive. The last and final Interview is with Sarah Joyce who is one of two Directors and Curators of the New Media Gallery in New Westminster. Sarah has worked with many of artists, institutions and curators throughout her career. The work that she and Director/Curator Gordon Duggan are doing at the New Media Gallery in New West is exciting, challenging and very different from many contemporary art spaces that you will have encountered. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year! - Sunshine Frère
Sara Joyce earned a BA, Fine Arts and Art History from the University of Victoria. She managed the largest conservation department west of Toronto, the Glenbow Museum & Art Gallery in Calgary for 10 years. Joyce completed her graduate studies in Conservation Theory a University College London. and arts management training at the Getty Institute in L.A. 1994, Joyce relocated to Italy, commuting to Israel to do on-site conservation. Joyce moved back to the UK in 1996, completing an MA in Contemporary Visual Culture at Bath Spa University, following on from there Joyce became the Senior Electronic Media Art Conservator (Acting Head) at the renowned Tate Gallery. She was responsible for the exhibition of collection works nationally and internationally, and worked with artists and galleries worldwide. In 2006, she returned to Canada where she has been curating new media art and gallery projects, working on and writing about art and craft, and advocating for Canadian artists’ freedom of expression. Joyce and Gordon Duggan are the founding Directos and Curators of the New Media Gallery in 2014, it is based in the Anvil Centre in New Westminster. www.newmediagallery.ca
WHAT TYPE OF SOCIAL MEDIA DO YOU USE TO PROMOTE YOUR WORK, AND WHY DO YOU USE IT?
We use social media platforms such as: Linked-in, Twitter, Facebook, instagram. We tend to use Facebook as a blog and for event invitations. We use You-Tube to the extent that we share the occasional video that highlights an artist or story. We don’t make original videos and upload to YouTube. Occasionally we use Google+ We have a website for the gallery. We use professional discussion boards and forums as required.. We use Mail chimp and Drop-Box as marketing platforms. We have used i-tunes in surprising ways - but could use this more effectively. We are currently using experimental i-beacons where we make local content available through your cell phone and you can link outside. We use Pinterest for Curatorial ideas. We should be using VIMEO and YouTube.
We had six interns from UBC working with NMG. They produced a report on our Social Media usage with recommendations. This was tremendously informative. We still have to find time to implement their suggestions!
HOW DO YOU BRAINSTORM AND COME UP WITH NEW IDEAS FOR EXHIBITIONS?
I co-curate with my colleague Gordon Duggan. An exhibition is a process interrupted: the exhibition is not a product in and of itself but one moment in a longer process of learning about art.
The final curatorial thesis…the one that manifests as ’the exhibition'… develops through a series of constant shifts and iterations that begins with looking at and discussing a lot of art over time. Sometimes an exhibition begins years earlier as some small kernel of interest that gathers impetus along the way. What we never do is come up with an exhibition idea that is then illustrated. We do engage in constantly evolving brainstorming sessions with many different people around works of art and ideas and themes and interests. These conversations resonate with works of art we already know, what’s in our mental database, the new art that’s on our radar, what we’re reading, what’s going on in the news etc.
All these shifts in understanding continuously send an exhibition idea off in a different direction. We always try to allow the works to inform and reveal the final exhibition (not the other way round). At some point…we pull it all together and contact the artists and galleries. But we try to leave room for the unexpected, for the work that pops out of nowhere. Curating a public gallery is very different from curating an artist run space, or an academic institution.
We construct and design the exhibitions ourselves. Even though it is a modest space we talk about our ideas for a long time before anchoring the physical space design. These discussions are done in dialogue with the artists or galleries. Having a very hands-on, responsive process to exhibition-making suits our style of curating.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR TIME IN ORDER TO ENSURE YOU COMPLETE PROJECTS ON TIME?
At NMG we have developed a fairly standard schedule in terms of the physical aspects of exhibition making. We present five exhibitions a year. Each 8 weeks long. We have 18 days to physically build each exhibition During this period people work very hard. We usually open on time. Some dedicated colleagues and a few very loyal volunteers are the team who help the gallery succeed.
When you work in a City environment you take on additional projects that are connected with the City. Not everything you do is directly connected with the gallery.
We work in an intuitive, process-driven way. We structure our time around creating the best possible exhibitions. We have ambitious ideas and plans. At this early stage of the gallery our choice has been to work very long hours so we can develop great projects. A lot of time is spent thinking about new exhibitions.
Practically - if you borrow works of art from large institutions you must put in your request 8 months to a year and a half in advance. Smaller institutions, private collections or even the artist may require less advance notice (but not necessarily). Large Commercial galleries are more time consuming to deal with than small commercial galleries. You become accustomed to working with these schedules. Having connections helps greatly.
We do five group exhibitions a year, dealing with 30 - 40 artists a year. The schedule is quite gruelling.
Procedures: I calendar everything. I keep a running diary list. All meeting notes go onto the same list.. I send myself reminder emails. I avoid paper - everything is on my laptop. I develop forms for most procedures or information that is standardized; this make the information easier to reference. I keep a number of different spreadsheets. I work very long hours.
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WISHED THAT YOU HAD LEARNED EARLIER IN YOUR CAREER THAT WOULD HAVE SAVED YOU TIME AND EFFORT?
Strangely, saving time and effort isn’t particularly high on my list of requirements. Perhaps because I like everything to be considered properly and thoughtfully and in its own time. As a young woman I was asked to become Department Head at a large Art Gallery and Museum, supervising 10 - 13 seasoned art and museum professionals. I was 32. I was offered the position because I was very organized and had an interest in the big picture of arts management. After four years as Department Head I gave it all up. I was 36. It was not where I wanted to be. I wanted freedom, creative challenges and change. But I don’t consider this period a lost cause. It taught me a lot. I took a year off, ran every day, read every day, became very fit, then moved to Italy for two years then England. It was the best decision I could have made. It set back a 'blossoming career' …but my path became a much more interesting one. I didn’t worry about a career per se…I worked at things I found interesting. I took chances and began accumulating diverse experiences…this was recognized later when I interviewed for a position at Tate Gallery. One thing I do wish I had taken advantage of - learning one or two other languages fluently.
WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVOURITE PART ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
I don’t like meetings for the sake of meetings, overly long meetings, office politics, or rigid organization and rules.
WHAT IS THE FAVOURITE OR THE BEST PART ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Discussing exhibitions with the public, doing educational tours, talking about the works, hearing visitors make an unexpected connection or tell us they have been personally moved by a work of art, or love an exhibition. It always makes my day.
I like brainstorming and working on creative programs that link with exhibitions.
When you have worked very hard to land a particular work of art for an exhibition, and you receive word that it has been agreed there is a great sense of satisfaction.
Research - I have always enjoyed any sort of research-oriented project. Exhibition research is endlessly fascinating.
Interviewing artists - I wish I had more time to do this. It was a large part of my job at Tate and one of the most enjoyable aspects of what I did there (including traveling to international studios).
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE INTERESTED IN PURSUING A CAREER IN CURATING?
I see young curators struggling with limited opportunities, particularly in Western Canada. The most interesting curators I've met have very diverse backgrounds and open minds. They involve themselves in all aspects of exhibition making. Above all…be brave…with your ideas and your choices.