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Behind the Scenes at the Brooklyn Museum

By Pete BarellScreen Shot 2014-10-08 at 15.45.32
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Sharon Matt Atkins, Managing Curator of Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, will be giving a free lecture on Oct. 9 from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m in the Steinberg Museum of Art. Light refreshments will be served at the event, which is also viable for Honors program merit credit. All students are welcome. The event is sponsored by the Department of Art, and organized by Professor Aileen Wang and the Art and Art History club. The lecture will focus on the experience of working as a curator with contemporary artists.

“[Atkins] is my friend from graduate school so we grew up together in the field, working towards being professionals, and now she is the Managing Curator of Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum,” said Wang. “I thought that she would be an interesting person to come to [the university] and share her insight and experience within the curatorial field.”

In her work at the Brooklyn Museum, Atkins has been responsible for modern and contemporary art exhibitions, such as “GO: A Community-Curated Open Studio Project” with Shelley Bernstein in 2012. She has also coordinated exhibitions devoted to artists such as Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell, and organized “Swoon: Submerged Motherlands” in 2014. Atkins recently helped organize a major presentation of the work of Ai Weiwei, a contemporary Chinese artist whose vast swath of work—from sculpture, to architecture, to film—expresses his political activism, which is critical of his native government. “He’s very much in the news and is currently being detained by the Chinese government,” noted Wang.

“This lecture is part of a series that I helped the Art and Art History Club start,” said Wang. “We bring in [people] who are active within the visual arts profession, [have them] meet with the students, and offer insight to them on what it’s like to work in the field now, and also to give professional advice.”

“They come [to] lecture and have a discussion with the students,” said junior Arts Management major Hannah Fitch, secretary of the Art and Art History Club. “It’s really great for art students, as well as other [majors] who are wondering about what happens in the real world [of art], like how to get jobs. It’s very helpful for us to know how it all works.” The Art and Art History Club is active in organizing these lectures. “We help set up a date, determine the refreshments, location, time, all of that,” continued Fitch.

“Last semester, I invited one of my colleagues in the commercial gallery field, Sunny Shin, who is the director of Coohaus Art in Chelsea,” said Wang. “She was able to [give a] presentation on how to be a professional artist, how to approach galleries that want to represent your work, [and] how to stage an exhibition. So that talk last year was very successful.”

Typically, Wang negotiates to have one speaker visit per semester. These events have led to key networking opportunities for students, like 2014 Art History graduate Jill Coklan, who had been secretary of the Art and Art History club. Coklan was introduced to Shin last year, expressed interest in internships, and now holds an assistant curator position at Coohaus Art in Chelsea. “Which is a key position,” noted Wang.

According to Stacie Zucker, a junior Digital Arts and Design major and the president of the club, the lecture series is beneficial, especially for graduate students
or those in the Honors program. “You get good information, make a network, have people who come in from the real world and show you how it is, and you get excited for your future,” said Zucker.

In addition to the discussion during common hour, there will be an extra talk with Atkins during Wang’s night class from 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Steinberg Museum. This talk will focus on how the Brooklyn Museum chooses their exhibitions, and what they consider when adding them into the gallery calendar. Interested students are free to notify Wang of their attendance, at aileen.

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