Currently Under Curation

People looking at a painting

Currently Under Curation students view a Bouguereau painting.
Photo by Stephen Bivens: Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Cleveland Public Library is partnering with the Cleveland Museum of Art to encourage local high school students to engage with the art of curation. As part of a special curatorial arts program run by the Cleveland Museum of Art, teens explore art from the Library’s collections, learn about the art of curation, and gain valuable skills.

1st Cohort Art Exhibit

Students curate an exhibit using the Library’s collections of PWAP and WPA prints.

Mar 21–May 6
Exhibit Opening: Thursday, Mar 21, 2019, from 5–7pm
Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch Gallery

2nd Cohort Art Exhibit

Contemporary fine-art printing inspires printmaking art including intaglio, relief printing, screen printing, letterpress, and digital media.

May 23–June 23
Exhibit Opening: Thu, May 23 from 5–7pm
Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch Gallery

3rd Cohort Art Exhibit

Students design miniature art galleries that explore the ways everyday objects can help them tell stories either from their own life or from the lives of those who made a mark on history.

May 30–June 30
Exhibit Opening: Thu, May 30 from 5–7pm
Langston Hughes Branch

Curating Young Futures

Currently Under Curation, a partnership between the Library and the Cleveland Museum of Art, is a new curatorial arts program for teens that helps high school students explore the world of curation and learn about art-related careers, all while cultivating valuable skills.

“We’re proud to partner with the Cleveland Museum of Art to help teenagers learn more about the art world and the principles of curation,” says Aaron Mason, Director of Outreach and Programming Services at Cleveland Public Library. “Currently Under Curation aligns with the Library’s efforts of supporting art education, inspiring new ideas, and exposing our city’s youth to programs and art forms they may not experience on a regular basis.” Currently Under Curation launched its pilot program in October 2018 with its first cohort of about seventeen high school students. The teens gather once a week after school and on some Saturdays over a six-month period to learn from Cleveland Museum of Art employees; engage with exhibits and artwork; enjoy behind-the-scenes access to the museum; and learn about the art of curation, including exhibit design, object-based research, the editorial process, and more.

“This program is not about art making; it’s about curation,” says Sabine Kretzschmar, Master Teacher for Currently Under Curation. “A true curator dives deep into a particular subject. If you’re a collector or someone interested in objects, the whole world can open up to you through curation.” The program’s overarching goals include exposing high school students to art history and museum practices; enhancing research, writing, public speaking, and critical thinking skills; and engaging a broad public audience through student-curated exhibitions focused on local artists, history, and collections at library branches.

The first assignment: help make one of Cleveland Public Library’s collections more accessible to the public.
WPA artwork

A Historic Collection

Teens in the inaugural Currently Under Curation cohort are using prints in the Library’s Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) artwork collection for their curation project, which will culminate in the 1st cohort exhibit, Ascension, Depression, Progression, displayed at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch.

According to Fine Arts and Special Collections Manager Pam Eyerdam, the Library’s connection to this federal arts program grew out of a relationship with William Milliken, a past Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art who served as the Regional Director of PWAP. The program, which originated in 1933 as PWAP and carried on through the early 1940s as the WPA, employed artists and musicians to create art and music focusing on the social and cultural needs of the public.

During this era, Cleveland Public Library enlisted artists and musicians to produce artwork, such as murals in Main Library and in branches, and copy handwritten musical scores for the collection. As a result, Eyerdam says, the Library became “a beacon of hope for those who needed a job and a place for those to come and enjoy works of art.” The prints used in the Currently Under Creation program were created by regional artists and provide glimpses of life in Cleveland during the mid to late 1930s and early 1940s.

“The prints depict the laborer at work, scenes of how the Depression affected our lives, the heroics of industry, cityscapes, rural scenes, and architectural studies,” Eyerdam says. The students’ exhibit of this artwork, she adds, can serve as “a reminder to a generation of upcoming young artists that the human spirit will endure and art is food for the soul.”

Giving Teens a Voice

Darius Steward, Currently Under Curation Manager, says the program also strives to foster diversity and inclusion—a mission that the Library supports, as well.

“The idea is to bring people together who aren’t museum regulars to learn more about the Cleveland Museum of Art and to get a wider array of people interested [in art and curation],” he explains.

“We want to introduce people early and often to this world, and to show that it’s open to all,” Kretzschmar adds.

Currently Under Curation is funded by the Cleveland Foundation’s Arts Mastery Education program and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Additional cohorts will enter the program in the spring and summer of 2019, and Steward and Kretzschmar say they hope to continue the program into the 2019-2020 school year. The Library’s role in the program may expand over time to include the use of additional collections and resources.

“The way you present a collection of artwork can say something—it can give the curator a voice,” Steward says. “Through this program, we want to give students that ability and power.”