ASK AN ARTS PROFESSIONAL
Conversation between Teri Henderson and Amy Boone-McCreesh
A: Where do you work? How and how long have you been in that role?
T: I work at BmoreArt; I run the Connect+Collect gallery and program which is a cohort of artists. We’re shifting and reconfiguring things, but Covid has put off some change that was going to happen.
In your own words, what is your job description?
Basically my job is to connect artists with collectors and get their work sold, while doing programming in the gallery. That’s why I got hired, but Covid happened, so I’ve been freelancing as a writer. When the gallery closed down, I became a staff writer. I mostly write about people that aren’t your typical “art person,” like black and brown and Queer artists; DJs, tattoo artists ,musicians…trying to shine light on that scene. BmoreArt covers a lot of the Fine Art, but that doesn’t include everything in this community. The DIY scene is mainly ow I met people and built my career. I also have a nomadic platform with my co-director Malcolm Lomax called WDLY. It started out like an event platform, but it’s really turned into an arts platform. We’ve done artist talks. The biggest thing we’ve done is Baltimore Museum of Art, Art After Hours, which was really cool because that was the first time the BMA partnered with an outside entity.
WDLY is about uplifting black, Queer, marginalized, artists and creators in these spaces that are predominately white and wealthy. I just co-curated a show with Casey Mckeel of Rebel Lens at Current Space called The People United. It’s open until August 21st. We highlighted the work of seven black Baltimore based photographers, some who’ve never had a show before, which is cool. The whole show can be seen from the street through the windows at Current.
So now they’re in a gallery and selling their prints. The other part of the show was a video installation with Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg based on their book and documentary “I Got A Monster” about police brutality and corrupt cops in Baltimore. It was important to me that at the time of these uprisings in the midst of this pandemic that we documented what was happening with this show.
More widely, what do you feel is your role in the Arts, in Baltimore, and beyond? This can also be aspirational
My role now during Covid times is to uplift and carry with me other people that look like me and are similar. People who came from a non-traditional background, Queer people, people who are not white, Neurodivergent people–people who are making things outside of the systems. I hate when people use the term “outsider art” because it has a negative connotation. People are doing really incredible shit. The inside/outside art thing is so stupid and a lot of the “inside” stuff is boring. So my role is telling the stories and giving the space to creatives who might not otherwise have a platform. That’s my goal and my aspiration is to continue to do that. I love my job at BmoreArt and I’d like to stay there for a long time. But, when I was in Law School, my goal was not to just become a Lawyer, but to make enough money as one so that I could buy my own gallery. I’ve realized that I’m learning more about access and I don’t necessarily need a space with physical keys. I’d love to start a space where I could fully experiment, but also allow other people to step in and experiment too–with no ties to anything.
Other than that, I just continue to write.
I started a platform called BlackCollagists. I’m doing this research project with a collector in Washington who is trying to add more black collage art into her collection. So I started this platform as a way to look for artists. There are a lot of black collage artists here in Baltimore. I just want to raise awareness. I have incredible relationships with really talented people–and people need to know who they are!
What are some projects you’ve organized or been a part of that are really exciting to you?
There’s a gallerist based in DC that I’m working on a new project with. That’ll be happening in the next few months. I love my role at BmoreArt, but these other things, other endeavors are things I do as an independent curator. It’s what I would do if I had my own space. I’m working on a project called BlackCollagists., which is a digital archive that displays the work of Black Collage artists for my work as a curator with the Doug+Laurie Kanyer Art Collection. With Connect+Collect at the gallery, I’m very excited about our next series of exhibitions, we have turned our windows into a surface for window projections. August 27th we have a show opening called “Close Read”. This is a group exhibition featuring newly commissioned work by Akea Brionne Brown, SHAN Wallace and Savannah Wood. This exhibition marks the first time that artists have been explicitly invited to work within the AFRO American Newspapers’ archives and was curated by Savannah Wood.
How have you had to flex and adapt during the pandemic and state of the country?
I just completed the Momus Emerging Critics residency, if things were normal I would have been in Canada for two weeks but instead the entire residency was completed online via zoom.
I was freelancing and I applied for the Connect+Collect position in January or February, got hired in February, and my start date was supposed to be March 16th. Friday the 13th of March was the last show at Terrault, so they thought then that they’d only shut down for a few weeks.
It’s now been seven months since I’ve been in my position without ever having a day in the real office or around my co-workers. I imagine what my life would have looked like, but I’m grateful I have a job. I was so excited to have one on one meetings with everybody. I was thrilled to be working in that space and working on shows, but that hasn’t happened obviously. I also transitioned from thinking I’d be a gallery coordinator to writing full time. Sometimes I have no motivation, so knowing that I have to write to pay my bills helps. It’s hard, but I have deadlines. I live alone, which has been pretty hard for me. I think I’m a pretty introverted person–I’m an introverted extrovert. I like going home to silence. If I hang out with friends, I need to go home and recharge for a day because my friends are loud, so I need alone time.
But now it’s getting hard and it’s lonely. I don’t get to have conversations with people that aren’t through a machine. I hate cooking for myself everyday and doing dishes.
I don’t want to complain and it sounds trivial, but I miss being able to make plans. My coping in the past was thinking things are bad now, but I have something to look forward to. Now I don’t know what’s going to happen.
How do you see the Arts moving forward?
I want to be optimistic. It’s been very terrifying for me to see a lot of places closing; it makes me nervous. I also want to say that I think that the fact that we’re all having this period to think and pause–it gives me hope in how people might want to be intentional with their time and resources. That’s all we have right now and I don’t think people are going to live their lives the same way. Everyone’s having conversations about real diversity. My hope is that in a year, we will all be able to reconvene and be intentional about being around each other. With places closing, maybe that will mean places with more vision will open up–more pop-up spaces or artist-run spaces that were dwindling before. My dream would be the ability to say “We have the resources, we’re mad, we’re like fuck institutions.” Hopefully a year from now we’re banded together and pooled our resources, in terms of “I can write about something, you can interview somebody”–that sort of DIY stuff. Maybe in a year there will be about fifteen or twenty more projects throughout the city. Even with the BMA giving money to different galleries and giving money to community programs. They’re paying more attention to people voicing concerns and being upset and maybe that will mean they will be giving more money to smaller initiatives.
I hope for a decline in corporate performative activism. What would this city be without the Art? So I’m hopeful and I’m excited to see what people do.
Advice or thoughts for those looking to work in the Arts, as a curator or administrator?
Relationships, but don’t do it in the way of networking like they teach you in school, but form them in an organic way. Go to shows and talk to artists about their work and tell them you like their work. It can be intimidating in the art world because it’s very white male dominated and there’s all these structures that get in the way. Knowing you can do it, as simple as that sounds…it just might not look like the traditional way. If you don’t have a parent to pay for your education, you can hustle–and you don’t even have to go to school for it. That’s the other thing. I’m a testament to that. I don’t have an MFA, but I have a full time writing and curatorial job.
These systems are in place and they aren’t for you and they weren’t designed for you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there. We need to recalibrate these systems. Also, don’t be afraid to ask. A lot of things have happened for me by just asking. Find somebody who is doing something you like and just ask them how they do what they do. Just be yourself.