I became a curator by accident. From a kid, I would drag my sisters to museums to see art but I didn't know much about the art world. I just thought it was cool to look at art. It wasn’t until my mid thirties that I decided to present art -- and not just any art, public art. In my mind, I figured if I could help my neighbors see art everyday, they would not be intimidated by it and would love art, just as much as me.
Well, I didn’t know how difficult that decision was going to be. It took me five years to present my first public art work. And I had a friend who not only told me that she didn’t like it, but reached out to the Parks Commissioner to try and stop me. Needless to say, I won.
For 21 years, I have curated public art in Times Square, Chelsea, DUMBO, and SoHo but also in neighborhoods of color. I gave back to the Bronx (born and raised in the Bronx), Harlem and yes, even Jackson Heights, Queens. These communities needed art just as much as any other part of the City.
Three years ago, I was asked by a colleague to consider doing radio. I didn’t have a professional background in the medium and so I doubted myself. But she believed that I had something to offer.
She gave me an opportunity that I had longed for. The art world is a very intimate one in NYC. It’s made up of family businesses that sometimes, go back generations. And it’s different from museums and certain institutions where it’s more bureaucratic. These people work very hard and they are close to their clientele. It’s not that simple to break in. You need time to cultivate relationships and trust is important. Most dealers and gallery owners want to share their knowledge with the public. It’s not all about making money, though art is a business and it makes lots of money.
Radio allowed me to share their world but I also became apart of their world. I was able to cross - racial, cultural and language divides. I have developed friendships. And right now, in this country, we need to find ways to truly get along with each other. The arts can be that bridge.
The stories surrounding art are endless and truly fascinating. I have learned so much history. And I appreciate the insights on religions, wars, politics and human anguish.
My radio program allowed me to connect people, time periods and neighborhoods together to better show our humanity. I moved my program State of the Arts NYC to Brooklyn Free Speech Radio last fall to further reach my goal. The transition to BRIC's Brooklyn Free Speech TV & Podcast Network has been positive. I needed stability for my guests. They love the building and the podcast suite. And the team at BRIC has pushed me to do my own engineering, though I often need help.
Radio and podcasting are platforms that offer enormous opportunities, especially for good storytelling. And in that regard, I am very qualified. As a public art curator, it’s all about conveying ideas, styles, techniques, and movements to a broader audience.
Even more important, BRIC and Brooklyn Free Speech Radio are allowing me to meet the demand for arts coverage. Print media has changed and those changes have impacted what news stories get seen and heard. Podcasting allows deeper conversations and a chance to understand what goes on behind the scenes.
Just in the last month, I have interviewed art dealer Jill Newhouse, Pulitzer Prize-winning theater critic Hilton Als, dancer/choreographer Jonah Bokaer and social architect Emma Osore, co-founder of the creative collective Black Space. That’s separate from doing a live recording with an audience at the Throckmorton Fine Arts Gallery on Miguel Covarrubias with owner Spencer Throckmorton and gallerist Norberto Rivera.
This year I hope to expand with new episodes on Governors Island where I will curate two art exhibitions in Nolan Park. BRIC's Brooklyn Free Speech TV & podcast Network will help me to offer on-site recordings and live events this spring and summer.
Savona Bailey McClain, Host/Producer, State of the Arts NYC