Mary Bradshaw is the new director of the Yukon Arts Centre Public Art Gallery. This is a new position at the gallery that artists should know about.
It used to be called “director/curator”, but the new job will remain “pretty similar in a lot of ways to what Scott Marsden did,” says Bradshaw. This includes general administration, managing the budget, ensuring that artwork arrives and overseeing all of gallery operations.
However, instead of being the curator and seeking out individual artists for shows, she will be seeking out guest curators for the 2010-2012 season.
The gallery is already booked up until September, 2010.
A curator chooses exhibitions. But they also foster the work, work with artists in developing their exhibitions, asking the questions that spur further work. The curator is also the “in-between person”. They can help translate or contextualize the art for the viewer.
Individual artists can still apply to the gallery with shows. However, it won’t necessarily be Bradshaw evaluating the applications and acting as curator.
Bradshaw will line up guest curators to work with over the summer. She hopes to utilize curators for more than one exhibition: “If they’re going to be flying up, why not have them work on a couple of different projects?”
She wants these curators coming into the territory to mentor Yukon artists. She plans to arrange meetings, lectures, workshops and studio visits. She also sees it as a chance to learn from them herself: “A way for me to grow into the job.”
Bradshaw has begun making contacts with the curators who worked on Burning Cold, the contemporary show of young artists from across Canada which appeared at the Gallery during the Canada Winter Games.
She’s hoping to work with Jean Blodgett, an expert on art in the Eastern Arctic. Blodgett curated the Inuit and Sami show from the Art Gallery of Hamilton that appeared at the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery last winter. She’s currently at the University of Fairbanks.
Bradshaw invites artists and others to put her in touch with curators they might know who have an interest in the Yukon.
She sees this change as a chance to look back on the Yukon Arts Centre’s exhibition history and see if there are any “holes”. It’s also a chance to delve into areas of expertise that the gallery director may not have.
Bradshaw is keen on seeing shows curated by First Nations curators.
The Yukon Arts Centre initiated an “Art Review” last spring when Chris Dray was still at the Arts Centre. The review continued through to September 2007.
The review began with bringing together arts organizations, evaluating where they stand on the arts and seeing what they would like to see happen over the next five years.
They heard from artists that it was “hard to break out of the Yukon,” making that next step in their career beyond the local. So, they decided to bring in curators from elsewhere to build connections as a gallery further out and also to link artists to curators.
Over the past year, there has been a lot of change in many arts organizations in the territory. Arts Underground was new and growing into its space, Chris Dray left the Arts Centre as executive director and both Bradshaw and Heather LeDuc where employed on limited contracts as “acting curators” at the Yukon Arts Centre and the Yukon Government respectively.
The review made a point of getting out and talking to individual artists and the public, asking people what they wanted to see, what kind of kids’ classes they wanted, what people wanted to see in a curator and what artists struggled with.
It was a “fantastic tool” to hand over to Al Cushing, the new executive director at the Yukon Arts Centre when he came to his new position in March. It also helped the gallery reshape the director/curator position to the job Bradshaw’s now doing.
If there are Yukon artists or others who have show ideas they would like to curate, Bradshaw invites them to contact her, chat with her over coffee and get a proposal together.
Bradshaw is excited to get moving with all this. This past year, as acting curator and without an executive director, she’s been keeping the boat afloat and just getting through the year.
Now she’s ready to dream and to find colleagues to dream with.