Curatorial Quote

“Curating is kind of like painting if some one were to spill coffee on your painting every 15 minutes. You must adjust, be responsive to the outside world. The coffee may even help the painting. It is a giant collaboration.”

-Jack Rasmussen, Director and Curator of the Katzen Art Museum.


The Incomplete Leader

What makes a true leader? Harvard Business Review published an article in 2007 titled, In Praise of the Incomplete Leader, which defines four leadership capabilities that organizations need.

  1. Sensemaking- Ability to understand changes in the business environment and determine the impact of these changes on the organization.
  2. Relating- Build trusting relationships, balance advocacy with inquiry, and form networks.
  3.  Visioning- Develop a compelling image for the future of the organization and generate support for that image
  4.  Inventing-Create new ways to complete a task or overcome a problem

According to the authors, no leader can have all four capabilities. The key to being a great leader is to pinpoint your strengths and surround yourself with people that can compensate for your weaknesses. In essence, accept that you are an incomplete leader. If I were to choose one category where I feel the strongest, it would be relating. I pride myself on being able to understand situations from the point of view of others. I often need a sensemaker to remind me that personal relationships cannot interfere with my ability to complete a task or uphold a policy.

In the arts sector, there are many different kinds of leaders. The obvious leaders are the CEOs of museums or owners of galleries. But then there are art consultants that assist with sensemaking, curators that spearhead the museum visioning, and of course the artists, always inventing. The many roles can be viewed in a variety of ways, but the point is to understand that we all need one another.

Do you agree with the four capabilities? Where are you the strongest?

Click here for the full capability chart if you are interested.


Can we really create something wholly unique?

The following work titled, I Know That Look, is by artist Mitch McGee. It is one of the many works within his Birch collection. Mitch developed a design for the piece and then cut, sanded and stained sheets of plywood before layering the sheets to create a 2-D art piece. So cool!!!

I posted I Know That Look because I enjoy Mitch’s work, but also because I like a question that he has posed on his webpage. Mitch asks, “Can we really create something wholly unique?” He wonders whether or not we can really separate ourselves from that which we have experienced in our environment to create art that is truly original. Mitch does not have an answer to the question. Instead, he says his “goal each time is to craft a fresh interpretation of that which moves me. An interpretation that might evolve several times throughout the process and one that could be realized by another’s senses differently, which in return gives me a fresh perspective.”

Ok Mitch, I can dig that.

What motivates you?

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us? is a short video animation by Dan Pink where he examines the factors behind individual motivation. In order to be effective leaders in any field, we must be aware of the motivation of our staff, clientele, followers….you name it. So what motivates people?

Well, first Dan tells us what doesn’t motivate– money. Yes, I said money. Believe it or not, money is NOT a main ingredient in the recipe for motivation. Dan says people should be paid enough so that money is not an issue. Once money is taken out of the motivation equation, leaders can shift their focus to 3 areas of human desire.

  1. Autonomy. People have a strong desire to be self-directed.
  2. Mastery. Why does the artist finish the painting that no one will see? Because he hopes to master his craft. He feels challenged and the completion of his sculpture is satisfying.
  3. Purpose. A common characteristic among some of today’s most successful companies is a strong overall purpose. Purpose (rather than profit) helps people come to work everyday.

According to Dan, leaders should stop treating people like horses chasing carrots (aka money) and work to fulfill these three desires.

Watch the video. What do you think? Are you driven by mastery?

DC’s Eclectic Art Spaces

The Dunes, an arts space in Columbia Heights, advertises itself as an art gallery, concert venue, retail popup shop, cocktail lounge, and private event space. PHEW! What a list?! The Dunes is just one example of an emerging trend among DC art galleries–diversification. Around town, fashion shows are being coupled with photography exhibits, art displays are infiltrating coffee shops, and theater actors are stepping down from the main stage to perform at local bars. The DC art scene is mixing things up.

The Washington Post article, Creative convergence: Washington’s new gallery scene, discusses the changing face of DC art galleries and lists their pick for the top 5 arts spaces to visit. Looks like the DC art scene has some savvy entrepreneurs.

Take a look!

Bipolar or just creative?

I recently read the book, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The book traces an in-depth study of creative individuals and the creative process. Why spend time studying creativity when there is so much research to be done in the field of medicine or economics or…? The list goes on and on. Well, Mihaly says that creativity is essential to life not only because creativity enriches culture and quality of life but also because creative thinking leads to solutions for the world’s problems. “If the next generation is to face the future with zest and self-confident, we must educate them to be original as well as competent” he writes.

As you know, creative people come in ALL shapes and sizes. It would be impossible to define the personality of the “creative individual.” However, Mihaly is able to pinpoint one personality trait that is common to all creatives– complexity. He defines complexity as demonstrating “tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated…contradictory extremes.” Creative individuals easily swing between these contradictory extremes.

Mihaly lists ten examples of opposing personality trait pairs.

When an individual can be

  1. energetic but quiet and restful
  2.  smart yet naïve
  3.  playful and disciplined
  4.  imaginative and realistic
  5.  extroverted and introverted
  6.  humble yet proud
  7.  masculine and feminine
  8.  rebellious yet conservative
  9.  passionate yet objective
  10. sensitive to both the pain and enjoyment of their work

I love this concept. After reading the chapter on complexity I felt invigorated. I am not bipolar…I am creative! Ok maybe that is a bit severe, but truthfully, I was able to look at my thought processes differently. Times when I feel spastic or out of control, I try to remind myself that I am creative and it is an asset that I am able to jump between extremes of thought and emotion.