Calla Paleczny, art supply store manager at Yukon Art Society, checks out a wall of art at Arts Underground in Whitehorse on Jan. 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Creating curators: Arts Underground to train aficionados in art of exhibition

‘There’s a demand for it’

A small group of Yukon art aficionados will be getting getting a crash course in how to curate art shows later this month.

Arts Underground is hosting a three-day curatorial training course for beginners later this month.

The idea is to help beginners feel comfortable being part of the development of a visual art show, and comfortable working with artists, said Arts Underground’s executive director Courtney Holmes.

It sold out within hours of being announced online.

“There’s a demand for it. I think we’re really fortunate to have so many cultural institutions in the Yukon and these institutions frequently, if not always, have exhibitions on display permanently or as part of their programming,” she said.

“And we need people who are trained to think conceptually about spaces, about aesthetic arrangements and about ways to communicate scenes and stories to viewers.”

A good curator is a storyteller, said Darrin Martens, the curator with the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, B.C. Martens is coming north to teach the course.

“One of the things you’re tasked with doing is you’re telling a story and to make that story relevant to a broader community.”

Martens said attendees will learn about the history of curation, the role of the curator and how to develop an idea all the way into into an exhibition.

“Who do you talk to? Where do you work? All of those kind of things.”

Having proper training helps anyone curating a show communicate clearly to the audience, Holmes said.

“A big part of curation is developing the concept and supporting the artist. So without that training a show can lose focus and you can lose track of the story and what’s being communicated.”

This kind of focused, classroom training is not always easily accessable, said Martens.

“A lot of it is on-the-job trial and error and … making contacts with other colleagues and learning through them.”

Martens has been north twice over the last few years to run similar programs through the Yukon government. Those programs typically have lasted six days.

This is the first time Arts Underground has run an intensive program.

There are 10 spots in the course. Four were reserved for staff of Arts Underground and the other six were open to the public.

Holmes credits the interest in part to the course’s short time commitment and low cost. It is being partially funded through the territory’s Cultural Industries Training Fund.

“I also think there isn’t a tremendous amount of critique happening in arts and culture in the Yukon and people are really ready for it,” Holmes said, “which is why I think we got such a strong response.”

The majority of people taking the course are employed is arts and culture, but there are also others who were interested in curating.

“The hope is that they then apply to Arts Underground as curators to curate a show or (that they) feel comfortable approaching other institutions around the territory to propose shows,” she said.

Martens said he hopes attendees will come away with a basic “toolbox” of skills they can modify for their own purpose.

“I’m a storyteller, that’s essentially what I am and what I do. I try to tell really good stories and work with really good art and good artists and people and collaborators.”

DISCLOSURE: Holmes is the spouse of editor Chris Windeyer

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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