The Curators and Critics Tour
Renee Couture spends a lot of time alone in her cozy studio in Glide, creating the conceptual pieces that have won her acclaim. Last fall, she opened the door to a visitor — Julia Bryan-Wilson, professor of modern and contemporary art at the University of California, Berkeley, and a well-known author of several books focused on art.
Bryan-Wilson spent several hours in the studio reviewing Couture’s work, talking with her about the ideas that informed it, and encouraging the artist to pursue a new direction she is considering.
The studio visit was one of 32 undertaken this year as part of the Curators and Critics Tour. The Ford Family Foundation’s Visual Arts program provides funding to bring national curators and critics to Oregon to consult with artists and to participate in community events on visual arts. Three tours per year are hosted by area institutions, in partnership with the Foundation. Artists are nominated by their peers as well as curators and critics.
“We feel confident in saying that this program element is one of the most valued services the Foundation provides through its Visual Arts program, from the one-on-one studio visits, to public lectures or panel participations, to the engagement with peers,” says Kandis Brewer Nunn, senior adviser to the program. “These nationally known art professionals become more knowledgeable about the visual arts in Oregon and, in turn, take the ‘Oregon story’ elsewhere.”
In 2018, participating partners were Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland State University and University of Oregon. In spring 2018, PNCA hosted New Yorker Paddy Johnson, the founding editor of blog Art F City. Johnson lectures widely about art and the Internet at venues including Yale University, Parsons and South by Southwest, and also works as a curator.
Portland State University hosted Robin Reisenfeld, the curator of Works on Paper at the Toledo Museum of Art. During her summer 2018 visit, Reisenfeld met selected artists specializing in prints, drawings, collage or book arts. She also presented public lectures at Crow’s Shadow Institute in Pendleton and Portland Art Museum on the theme of “Resilience and Struggle in Contemporary Narrative Drawing.”
The University of Oregon hosted Bryan-Wilson, who visited artists in the Eugene, Roseburg and Ashland areas.
“Each visit is about an hour and half, for a really honest conversation in the artist’s studio with their work where they work,” says Kate Wagle, professor of art at the University of Oregon, which has been a partner in the program since its launch in 2011.
“Glide is a really small town and it’s pretty incredible to be able to meet with someone like Julia,” Couture says. “Without this program, I would not have the opportunity to have a critique with her — ever. I talked to her about work I want to do around changing rural identity, and she told me it was relevant and I needed to do it. It stokes the fire.”