CAM. Photo: Hélène Binet.
CAM. Photo: Hélène Binet.

Curatorial Convening of Small Non-Collecting Contemporary Art Institutions

Hosted by the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis 
September 30, October 28, December 9, 2021 and February 21, 2022

Museums of the kunsthalle (non-collecting) tradition are vital components of the contemporary art world. Foregoing the stewardship of a permanent collection—instead developing exhibitions and robust programming showcasing new and innovative work—contemporary non-collecting institutions are at the forefront of actively writing art history. Many non-collecting institutions work with smaller budgets and staff than their collecting counterparts, but are expected to produce similarly ambitious exhibition programs and increase audience numbers. Alongside these demands, curators at non-collecting institutions must fundraise and write and implement exhibition management policy, all while balancing the rigorous research and writing central to exhibition curating. With heightened racial tensions and the emergence and rapid spread of coronavirus in 2020, curators have been further implored to consider and act upon their respective institutions’ roles in the perpetuation of anti-Black racism while focusing on the safety of their staffs, audiences, and communities at large. 

In response to these mounting pressures, Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Chief Curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, with the generous support of an Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation Peer Network Grant, brought together a cohort of senior curators from similar sized non-collecting institutions including Miranda Lash (Museum of Contemporary Art Denver), Dan Byers (Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University), Courtenay Finn (formerly, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland), and Allison Glenn (formerly, Contemporary Art Museum Houston). The cohort met via Zoom in September, October, and November 2021 to advance curatorial practice by learning from each other’s successes and failures and identifying solutions to shared challenges. These discussions culminated in a half-day virtual conference in February 2022 featuring special guests Diana Nawi, independent curator, and Sarah Williams, co-founder and Executive Director of the Feminist Center for Creative Work. Centering empathy and equity throughout their conversations, the curators addressed the shifting nature of curatorial practice, working with publics, and internal institutional models and practices with the intention of sharing resources, showing support, and working more efficiently and effectively.

Sheldon Gooch

For the full report, click here.

This project was sponsored by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.