Alumna organizes powerful show on race and representation

Art history alumna Amber Esseiva (BA ’12) curated “Great Force” at the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU, her first exhibition as sole organizer. The ICA’s assistant curator, Esseiva lent her expertise in art history and curatorial studies to mount a show The New York Times says should not be missed this fall.

In “Great Force,” 24 artists work across a variety of mediums to illustrate black-white racial tensions in America. In a feature on Esseiva’s life and career, VCU News spoke with the exhibition curator about the experience of organizing the show.

“It means a lot to solely curate a show at the ICA,” [said Esseiva.] “It feels like I’ve been waiting for this for a long time and also like it snuck up on me. It’s a huge opportunity and also one of the most daunting things I’ve done to date.”

Esseiva has been researching the racial divide for several years while taking on increasing levels of curatorial responsibility, so this was a natural next step, said Stephanie Smith, chief curator at the ICA.

“Amber approaches her work with passion, a bold intellect, and a sharp sense of humor. That’s a powerful combination, and it’s made even stronger by the care for art, ideas, and others that shines through Amber’s curatorial practice,” Smith said. “It shapes public projects like ‘Great Force’, which she developed through deep, creative dialogue with artists, writers, designers and other collaborators. It’s also there in less visible but hugely important behind-the-scenes ways, like her commitment to the many VCU students that she teaches and mentors.”

Read the full story in VCU News.