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Writers and curators learn to write art critiques

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A series of panel discussions organized by Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition will give the public a chance to learn from several local artists and more than a dozen visiting art world luminaries from around the country.

Community-Based Practice in the Arts, scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Saturday at Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, is the first in a series of free panel discussions that are aimed to help Oklahoma’s diverse artists, writers, curators and visual arts professionals gain access and new perspective about the national art scene.

The program, presented in partnership with The Oklahoma Art Writing & Curatorial Fellowship, places a heavy emphasis on art writing, or the written critique or discussion of art.

“Our three guest mentors for the program will each present about their own practice on the first panel,” said Kelsey Karper, associate director of OVAC. “They each have different approaches to their work but are connected through their emphasis on building community and using art as an impetus for change.”

Karper said that, especially in a burgeoning art scene like Oklahoma City’s, infusing that scene with fresh ideas is always beneficial.

“I think it’s important for any community to always be learning and making connections outside their own boundaries,” said Karper. “Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition has several programs with components that emphasize building a network beyond our own state lines, and The Oklahoma Art Writing & Curatorial Fellowship is one of them.”

Mentors for the 2015 fellowship include several “esteemed professionals in the arts.” During Community-Based Practice in the Arts, audiences will hear from Chloë Bass, an independent conceptual artist and cultural critic from Brooklyn, New York; Julia Cole, an interdisciplinary artist, educator and community strategist and Rocket Grants coordinator at Charlotte Street Foundation from Kansas City, Missouri; and Daniel Tucker, an artist, writer, curator and assistant professor and graduate program manager in social and studio practices at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The panel is moderated by Kirsten Fleur Olds, a writer, curator and assistant professor of art history at the University of Tulsa.

Twelve fellows were selected from Oklahoma and the region to participate in this state-based contemporary art program for writers and curators. Through the yearlong program, each of the 12 fellows will produce art writing and exhibition projects in mentorship with art world luminaries.

The fellows were chosen through a competitive application process and represent independent artists, writers and professionals in museums and educational institutions within 350 miles of Oklahoma City or in regional partner communities.

One of the fellows is Alyson Atchison, a local artist and the curator of exhibits at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Atchison said that she’s looking forward to sharpening her own skills and finding new ways to contribute to Oklahoma’s newly exploding art scene.

“Most of the art writing that I’ve been doing for the past six years is for the didactics for the exhibits that I curate at the State Capitol,” Atchison said. “There’s wall text, about a five- to seven-hundred-word essay that accompanies and explains all of the exhibits, but that’s only one small kind of art writing. In that kind of art writing, that’s not a place to express an opinion. That’s where we’re just describing or explaining the show.”

Atchison said she is interested in learning about writing critically about other people’s art.

It’s not a desire born from anything other than honing the skills of fellow artists and contributing in a positive way to the scene.

“One of the great things about Oklahoma’s art scene right now is that we’re all cheerleaders for each other,” she said. “That’s awesome and everything, but on the other side of that coin, if we don’t like your work, we won’t say anything. I think that leaves out a lot of room for growth. A critique doesn’t even have to be negative; it just has to be something that encourages growth.”

Atchison and local artist Laura Reese even started their own art writing blog so they could begin the process of acclimating fellow Okie artists to the process of art writing.

“Other than maybe Art Focus [Magazine], there aren’t a whole lot of places locally to practice art writing,” Atchison said. “Nationally, you’ve got Art in America, The New York Times, publications like that with great art critics. But we wanted to start something locally because we think it’s very important for artists to hear critical feedback about their work.”

The focus on growth is just another reason Atchison said she’s excited about being named a fellow and the series of panel discussions.

For more information, call Kelsey Karper at 879-2400 or email publications@ovac-ok.org.

Print headline: Creative growth, Artists from Oklahoma and around the country will gather to discuss all things art.

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