People’s Conference

People’s Biennial proposes an alternative to the standard contemporary art biennial and questions the often-exclusionary selection process of biennial curation. Organized by artist Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffmann, Director, Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, CCA, and produced by Independent Curators International (ICI), the traveling exhibition examines the work of artists who operate outside the MFA programs, commercial galleries, and major museums that make up the mainstream art world.

The exhibition is the result of a year of research into the creative communities of five American cities: Portland, Oregon; Rapid City, South Dakota; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Haverford, Pennsylvania. In each place, the curators collaborated with an art institution and participated in a series of public events and open-calls, which led to the selection of the work of 36 artists, culminating in a snapshot of creative practice in America today.

In conjunction with the exhibition’s last stop at Haverford College, a two-day conversation has been organized to delve deeper into questions about regionalism, display, and structures of support for under-recognized artists in ways that push the boundaries of curatorial, artistic, and institutional innovation.

Participants include Harrell Fletcher, Tom Finkelpearl, Jens Hoffmann, Paula Marincola, John Muse, Peter Nesbett, John Ollman, Renaud Proch, J. Morgan Puett, Julien Robson, Ingrid Schaffner, Andrew Suggs, Astria Suparak, Nato Thompson, and Transformazium.


Friday, February 24

Haverford College
Sharpless Auditorium, KINSC
370 Lancaster Avenue
Haverford, PA 19041

Exhibition co-curators Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffmann reflect on the process of making the first People’s Biennial, as well as its potential for future iterations.
Moderated by Renaud Proch, Deputy Director, ICI.

People’s Biennial will be on view following the conversation until 7:30pm.

Saturday, February 25

Institute of Contemporary Art
University of Pennsylvania
118 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

This day-long conversation proposes a question in two parts: How can one contextualize and display art that exists outside the norms of the mainstream art world in an innovative manner, and how can structures of display transform into ongoing systems of support for artists?

Ingrid Schaffner and Renaud Proch

Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffmann

Exploring curatorial innovation in regional communities

This discussion will examine the role of curatorial practice and exhibition-making in fostering meaningful cultural impact in regional communities

Speakers include Nato Thompson, Chief Curator, Creative Time; Andrew Suggs, Executive Director, Vox Populi; and Astria Suparak, Director, Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University
Official responses by Christopher Cook, Director, Salina Art Center; Peter Nesbett, Senior Program Specialist, Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative; Julien Robson, Curator of Contemporary Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; and Ingrid Schaffner, Senior Curator, ICA University of Pennsylvania
Moderated by Jens Hoffmann

Developing ongoing systems of support for art and creativity

The discussion will address the realities of living and working in regional communities, and how artists and institutions have addressed the complexities of working in these contexts

Speakers include Tom Finkelpearl, Executive Director, Queens Museum of Art; J. Morgan Puett, artist; and Transformazium, artist collaborative
Official responses by John Ollman, Director, Fleisher/Ollman Gallery; Paula Marincola, Executive Director, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage; and John Muse, Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, Haverford College
Moderated by Harrell Fletcher


This program is free of charge and open to the public. For questions or more information about People’s Conference, contact Chelsea Haines at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Read more about the exhibition People’s Biennial.

Purchase People’s Biennial 2010: A Guide to America’s Most Amazing Artists.

People’s Conference is co-organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), Haverford College’s John B. Hurford ‘60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), University of Pennsylvania. People’s Conference is funded, in part, with a professional development grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative. The ICA thanks The Spiegel Fund to Support Contemporary Culture and Visual Arts.




February 24, 2012

Friday, February 24
Haverford College
Sharpless Auditorium, KINSC
370 Lancaster Avenue
Haverford, PA 19041

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Saturday, February 25
Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
118 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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Tom Finkelpearl

Tom Finkelpearl is the Executive Director of the Queens Museum of Art. He’s worked as a curator and program manager at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, Director of the Percent for Art Program at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Executive Director of Program at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His Dialogues in Public Art (2000) is a collection of artist interviews, contemplating the issues of community outreach and public engagement in art outside the walls of a museum. He is currently working on a book entitled The Art of Social Cooperation.

Harrell Fletcher

Harrell Fletcher is an artist who has worked collaboratively and individually on socially engaged, interdisciplinary projects for more than fifteen years; his work has been exhibited throughout the United States, and in Europe. He is a professor of art and social practice at portland state university in Portland, Oregon.

Jens Hoffmann

Jens Hoffmann is Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Programs, at The Jewish Museum. Formerly, he was Director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco from 2007-2012. He was previously Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London from 2003 to 2007. Hoffmann was an adjunct professor at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, a guest professor at the Nuova Accademia de Belle Arti, Milan, and a faculty member at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has organized more than 50 shows internationally including the 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011) and the 9th Shanghai Biennial (2012).

Renaud Proch

Renaud Proch is Independent Curators International (ICI)’s Executive & Artistic Director, and from December 2009 to March 2013, he served as ICI’s Deputy Director. Prior to this, he was the Senior Director at the Project in New York, as well as the Director of MC, in Los Angeles. Originally from Switzerland, Proch studied in London and moved to the West Coast of the U.S. in 2001. He co-founded ART2102 of Los Angeles in 2003, a non-profit organization that realized projects by artists and curators on- and off-site; and the backroom in 2005, a growing artists’ archive and itinerant research-oriented project presented in five cities in the U.S., Mexico and France. In 2011, he co-curated with Khwezi Gule a retrospective of South African artist Tracey Rose for the Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa, and the Umea Bildmuseet, Sweden, which also traveled to the Nikolaj Kunsthal, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

J. Morgan Puett

J. Morgan Puett is an artist whose work focuses on clothing design/textile and costume history as well as the recreation of milieus that recollect her well-worn southern rural heritage. Puett launched her career with the creation of her own designer label (J. Morgan Puett) and accompanying SoHo retail fashion house. She has been featured, among others in New York Magazine, W, Harpers Bazaar, Art Forum, Art in America, and The New York Times.

Andrew Suggs

Andrew Suggs is the Executive Director of Vox Populi, and a curator and writer. He earned an AB cum laude from Harvard University. He curated the exhibition Kick in the Eye at Vox Populi (Philadelphia, PA) in 2011, Expanded Marks at Space (Portalnd, ME) in 2009 and an upcoming two-person exhibition of artists Jonathan Van Dyke and Brian Kokoska at Vox Populi (Philadelphia, PA).  He has contributed texts to numerous exhibition catalogs and Phonebook: Directory of Independent Art Projects & Spaces.

Astria Suparak

Astria Suparak is the director and curator of Carnegie Mellon’s Miller Gallery, where she curated the first Yes Men retrospective, Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men, and co-curated Whatever It Takes: Steelers Fan Collections, Rituals, and Obsessions and the 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial. Suparak was the director and curator of the Pratt Film Series and Syracuse University’s Warehouse Gallery, and has curated exhibitions, screenings and events for museums, festivals, publications, and film centers internationally, as well as for many alternative spaces. She recently edited the Yes Men Activity Book and co-produced New Art/Science Affinities (2011), which accompanies the Miller Gallery at CMU’s touring exhibition, Intimate Science.

Nato Thompson

Nato Thompson joined Creative Time in January 2007. Since then, Thompson, who is Chief Curator, has organized such major Creative Time projects as The Creative Time Summit (2009–2013), Kara Walker’s A Subtlety… (2014), Suzanne Lacy’s Between the Door and the Street (2013), Nick Cave’s HEARD•NY (2013), Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures (2012), Living as Form (2011), Paul Ramirez Jonas’s Key to the City (2010), Jeremy Deller’s It is What it is (2009, with New Museum curators Laura Hoptman and Amy Mackie), Democracy in America: The National Campaign (2008), and Paul Chan’s Waiting for Godot in New Orleans (2007), among others. Previously, he worked as Curator at MASS MoCA, where he completed numerous large-scale exhibitions, including The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere (2004), with a catalogue distributed by MIT Press. His writings have appeared in numerous publications, BookForum, Frieze, Art Forum, Parkett, Cabinet, and The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest among them. In 2005, he received the Art Journal Award for distinguished writing. For Independent Curators International (ICI), Thompson curated the exhibition Experimental Geography, with a book available from Melville House Publishing. His book Seeing Power: Socially Engaged Art in the Age of Cultural Production is forthcoming from Melville House in 2013.


Transformazium, comprised of Leslie Stem, Caledonia Curry, Ruthie Stringer and Dana Bishop-Root, is a collaborative project located just outside of Pittsburgh, PA in a neighborhood that has experienced economic and demographic changes resulting from the loss of industry in the region. Transformazium aims to use the tools of the artist to call attention to existing wealth and strength in a place that is often considered under-resourced; to meet practical needs for information, communication and resource exchange among residents of a neighborhood and between neighborhoods; offer art and design consultation as a means for residents of a neighborhood to exercise critical aesthetic agency; exchange models of action and facilitate communication between neighborhoods and communities facing similar challenges.

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