Courtney Paolicchi
Courtney Paolicchi

From Art Camp to CAM

Courtney Paolicchi is a Visitor Services Associate (VSA) at CAM who is passionate about contemporary art, long walks, and Florence and the Machine. A native of St. Louis, Courtney studied art history in McGill University in Montreal, and returned home to pursue a career in museum work. With Derek Fordjour’s Player Portraits, Courtney’s favorite installation, as our backdrop, we sat down adjacent to CAM’s café for a conversation about Courtney’s artistic pursuits and her work as a VSA member.

How did you first become interested in art?
As a kid I used to participate in a lot of art camps, and then in high school I took studio art classes and really enjoyed them. I made a lot of ceramics during that period. I love making pottery because of the meditative quality of the process. It’s so satisfying watching the clay slowly coming into shape, becoming what you want it to be or maybe something else entirely.

Now, though, I see myself more as a consumer than a creator of art, and not only fine arts but music and poetry too. I love reading poetry in my spare time and listening to indie and folk music. Recently I’ve had Florence and the Machine on repeat. It’s so enriching to take it all in––to experience what’s out there and explore their relationship to one another. 

What is your favorite part about your job? What is your favorite project so far?
I just love the hands-on aspect of it. I’m also part of the install crew at CAM. We get to, you know, touch the art—with gloves on, of course—and that has completely changed my relationship with it. There’s a sense of intimacy and immediacy you don’t get to experience elsewhere. At the end of every season, we get to knock down walls and touch up the patches on them to prepare for new installations. For Derek Fordjour’s SHELTER, our team painted the shiny, new screws to make them look rusty and decrepit. 

My most memorable experience is building the sound installation Saydnaya (the missing 19db), which was part of Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s exhibition Earwitness Theatre. While we put together the materials of the dark, sound-proof room, the audio of the piece, which was a series of interviews with former detainees of a Syrian prison, played in the background. It was surreal to experience the sound piece while creating the physical space it would occupy at the same time. 

What do you love the most about CAM?
What makes CAM special for me is the fact that the art here changes so frequently. At the end of a season, I would have this feeling of anticipation, this readiness and excitement for the next thing. I also love that it’s contemporary art. When I studied art history in college, I tended to focus on eighteenth century art, but now I prefer contemporary because I get to engage in conversations with living artists. And, because everybody’s works are so different, there’s never an end to what you can experience. 

Alice Nguyen