Art History Students Gain Hands-on Curation Experience at The Anderson

We recently caught up with Julia Park (Art History and English double major with a minor in LGBT+ and Queer Studies) and Sakina Ahmad (Interdisciplinary Studies major with a concentration in Art History, Mass Communications and a minor in Media Studies) who are enrolled this semester in the Anderson’s Applied Curatorial Practices class. Julia and Sakina, along with two other students, co-curated the gallery’s recent exhibition, “Southern Exigency.”

The class began work in the Fall of 2021 with the goal of curating a show based around a city and the contemporary artists working there. This year’s city was Atlanta. As Julia mentions, “we researched artists working in Atlanta and then arranged studio visits. In a whirlwind two days in Atlanta, we visited the studios of many of those artists. Upon arriving back we began to figure out who would be in the show and then which pieces from them we wanted to request. For me, the gravity of what we were making did not hit until we were unfurling the artworks a few weeks ago in February 2022. At that moment, there was a feeling of, wait, we are DOING this.”

For Sakina, “this endeavor has been a huge learning experience for me as an aspiring curator from beginning to end. Working with artists, developing a show concept, and handling the art was something I never imagined I’d be able to do as an undergraduate. To be able to travel to Atlanta and witness other artists’ creative processes in their own studios was one of the highlights of the class for me.”

Sakina and Julia both express their gratitude to the artists involved for their patience and kindness throughout the process of putting the show together. Julia states that “it is a testament to their kindness as well as each of their commitments to our learning process. I know that we all feel so honored for their trust and absolutely enthusiastic willingness.”

Installation of Southern Exigency at The Anderson

Applied Curatorial Practices, a two semester course offered through the department in conjunction with the Anderson, provides students a hands-on experience in the ins and outs of curating a show — valuable skills for post-grad. As someone interested in pursuing curation as a part of her career path in the arts, Julia sees “this was an invaluable experience to do the thing on a real-stakes scale while still having the support and process of a class learning environment.” Sakina notes that “this course gave me a lot more confidence in conveying my thoughts and opinions regarding the current art world. It was amazing to see the finished exhibit at The Anderson, and I was really proud of my classmates and myself for being able to put together a meaningful and unified exhibition that really engaged and inspired discussion in the community.”

“Southern Exigency”, on view at the Anderson from February 4th through March 5th, featured ten Atlanta artists whose media-spanning works interrogate place, familial roots, memory, and physical land. Some works delve into the rich world of memories, often passing through portals and entering dreams or transformed realities. Others interrogate our relationship with the land and what we miss — or even look away from — that lies just under the surface. The power of storytelling coupled with radical vulnerability is evident throughout as each artist confronts themself and their environment, leading to the emergence of reborn narratives and deepened understandings. 

Installation of Southern Exigency at The Anderson

Connected, the works compose a varied and rigorous picture in response to and in conversation with the exigencies of the contemporary American South. How do we trace the places we have been while defining the urgent demands of the present and future? How can we navigate ourselves through the unknown, making the process a practice? What radical arrival(s) might we meet and what might we heal along the way? Through a critical examination of roots, memories, and histories, the artists in “Southern Exigency” pose how we might move into complexity, make the invisible visible, and open ourselves to the fullness of time and place.