Aspen Art Museum to host virtual opening and exhibition with Young Curators of the Roaring Fork
IF YOU WATCH ….
The Young Curators of the Roaring Fork’s ‘What We Are Made of’ will open with a virtual public reception Saturday, April 18 from 3-4 p.m. on Zoom. Register at aspenartmuseum.org, where the show will remain on view through May 3.
Young Curators will also participate in a “Slow. Look. Live.” program on Instagram Live Friday, April 17 at 4 p.m. with museum learning director Rachel Ropeik. A podcast episode will also be forthcoming.
After six months of weekly meetings, artistic debates and artwork selections, the Young Curators of the Roaring Fork weren’t going to cancel their annual show at the Aspen Art Museum amid the novel coronavirus shutdown of public life.
It is instead moving online, making the museum’s first virtual opening reception and exhibition. The curators got to work on the virtual version soon after the museum was closed last month.
“There was no way that we would give this up,” young curator Annika Bucchin of Glenwood Springs High School said last week as the museum announced a virtual opening and exhibition for 2020. “I believe that everyone can learn from these artists. … Having a show during this global pandemic is a perfect time to express to our community how teens today are handling issues and that they have a thing or two to learn from us.”
Canceling also would have violated the mission of this year’s show, titled “What We Are Made Of” and — fittingly for this moment of global crisis — themed around perseverance and growth. As a group statement from the Young Curators puts it, the show “invites audiences to consider their own vulnerability and strength and reflect on the questions: where have we come from, what have we overcome, and what has helped us grow?”
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Running since 2005, the museum’s Young Curators program annually brings together students from valleywide high schools to put together an exhibition of work by their peers. This year’s crop of seven curators came from Aspen, Coal Ridge, Glenwood Springs and Rifle high schools. The show includes 24 artworks by student artists at those schools as well as Colorado Rocky Mountain School. The curators selected the work from 90 submissions.
While the long-running program annually challenges the Young Curators to learn new skills and produce an exhibition, the 2020 edition unexpectedly pushed them to pull off a show with unprecedented challenges in a virtual format no professional Aspen Art Museum curator has done before.
“It may be an even better experience,” said Rifle High School junior Lily McCann-Klausz, “because it’s not just something I’ve never done, but that hardly anybody has ever done. I think we’ll be able to look back and be proud.”
The process began in the fall, as the curators brainstormed what they wanted to say in the show and what would be representative of their peers, while also meeting regularly with curators and artists at the museum.
They made an open call for submissions without a theme in place, but required artist statements with each piece, allowing the curators to identify thematic or stylistic threads. Even before the public health crisis began taking the themes were evident.
“We were already thinking about themes of perseverance and overcoming obstacles and vulnerability,” said Glenwood High senior Sebastian Arreola. “The community as a whole can connect to the artwork and these artists and those themes. And coincidentally it happened while we are living through this.”
Selected artworks are personal and much of it particularly resonant during the mental, emotional and physical strains of quarantine.
Ava Lee’s charcoal piece “Kennedy and Luke,” for instance, captures a youngster and a dog gazing out a window from inside, reminiscent of a scenes playing out constantly as kids are home during the public health restrictions on gatherings. Eliana Suarez’s “The Hidden Identity” shows two hands seemingly emerging from an abstracted canvas, recalling all the focus on hand-washing and touch-avoidance that’s become a part of daily life.
“Rewired” by Celia Anne Scruton, is a bust-like sculpture with the head of clay incorporating wires, nodding to our technology-tethered lifestyles.
“A lot of people can relate to that right now,” Arreola said of the piece, “as we are all on Zoom and Facetime and Google Hangouts.”
Those weren’t the intentions of the work, of course, as they were made before the pandemic took hold. But the viewer can’t help but bring those associations to the show, which in turn challenges the viewer to ask how they might persevere in this crisis.
Along with Arreola and Bucchin, the 2020 Young Curators are Aspen High School’s Eryn Brettmann; Coal Ridge High School’s Kiona Carrasco and Logan Cox; Glenwood Springs High School’s Jenna Golden; and Rifle High School’s Lily McCann-Klausz.
The program aims to teach skills like aesthetic and critical thinking, leadership and organization, while giving students a platform to amplify their voices. For Arreola, who has been involved in Young Curators since his sophomore year and is now a senior, it has been transformative.
“It helped me to grow both artistically and mentally,” said Arreola, who is hoping to pursue marketing, design and fashion in college, “it allowed me to possess leadership skills and always enter discussions with an open mind. The Young Curators program helped me to know that sometimes, having a conversation, you may not agree but in the end you can reach middle round.”
Graduating with the disrupted and displaced class of 2020, Arreola is still grappling with the idea that his class might not walk for graduation or enjoy the other rites of passage of high school’s end. But he’s proud that the Young Curators show is living on online.
“The great thing about being virtual is we can still connect with one another and the community can sty connected with the Young Curators,” he said. “It’s been challenging, but this is the first time the museum has done an exhibition virtually, so that’s a powerful message that is communicating through the Young Curators.”
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