If You Have a Space, Curate: The story of the Exhibition Initiative

Georgia Horn Weinberg, Staff Writer

After meeting with and attending lectures by a number of prominent New York curators as part of their Winter Term project in January 2010, Anna Poe-Kest, OC ’11, and Martha Moldovan, OC ’11, founded the College’s only student curatorial group, Exhibition Initiative. “If you have a space, curate,” they told me when I met with them during the spring of 2010 to discuss the group’s nascent identity.

Since then, they have done just that. Beginning in May 2010, the group curated their first annual show,In|Flux, in Hales Gymnasium, and collaborated with the Plum Creek Review on an exhibition of the Art Library’s collection of Mail Art the following November. During the spring of 2011 the group hosted Roni Horn, who did criticisms of student work followed by a Q&A, and they also curated their second annual show, On portraiture, in Fisher Gallery.

After graduating in May, Poe-Kest and Moldovan handed over the reins to College senior Art History major Molly Stein, and College junior and Studio Art and Art History major Thomas Huston, who hope to expand the group’s presence on campus through hosting an increased number of shows and events over the year. Stein and Huston’s vision for the future of the group involves placing more emphasis on the pre-professional and interdisciplinary nature of the group’s work. In this vein, the two have invited David Norr, the curator of Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, to speak about his experience as a curator and how he began his career in Cleveland. They also plan to host a show of faculty artwork at the end of the semester, in addition to the third annual student show that will be held in May 2012.

Of their vision, Stein commented, “This interdisciplinary approach to building a career is a value that is integral to Oberlin as an institution. There was a time when Oberlin was a hotbed of artistic activity. Ellen Johnson cultivated this environment through her relationship with numerous up-and-coming artists and professionals, who [are] today renowned in their field; artists like Eva Hesse, Claus Oldenburg, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella.”

In addition to all the Exhibition Initiative’s work on current curatorial projects, they are working on drafting and submitting their official charter, and will collaborate with the Art Students Committee on a project to bring Cory Arcangel to campus during the spring semester. If you’re interested in joining, e-mail [email protected], and watch out for posters about their weekly meeting.

“I’m hoping more than anything that this organization continues to thrive over time, once its founding members and leaders have all graduated,” said Huston. “I would love to have the group grow to a size that can support additional exhibitions and foster new ideas.”