Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

Independent Curators International supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement.

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Report: Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans 2019

By Nic Brierre Aziz
On Jan 15, 2020

I first heard about the Curatorial Intensive through a colleague and friend, Lydia Nichols, who participated in the 2016 program in New Orleans. At that point, I had just curated my first exhibition in the previous year in the Arts Council of New Orleans’ gallery space and was very interested in learning more about ways to expand my knowledge and experience in the curatorial field.  I had the opportunity to watch her presentation and discussion with other curators in the program during the 2016 Curatorial Intensive Symposium, which was extremely fruitful to me – especially as someone who had only fully learned what a ‘curator’ was 12-18 months prior. From that point, I continued to become more involved in New Orleans’ art communities, curating programs and exhibitions across the city.

The next year, I focused on my curatorial practice and curated four exhibitions while also serving as a production assistant on Prospect.4 projects – with John Akomfrah, and Otabenga Jones and the Kitchen Sisters. When the opportunity to apply for the ICI New Orleans Curatorial Intensive presented itself, I immediately embraced it.

As I reflect on my experience from the 2019 program, the numerous opportunities made it possible for me to refine my curatorial voice. Visiting Faculty Annalee Davis shared about her deeply personal practice in Barbados and how she “links biography with biology to understand her place in the world.” This resonated with me as much of my curatorial practice currently revolves around my Haitian heritage and family history. Being in New Orleans, I was able to share with the group the first installation of my Bote Bliye exhibition series which featured works from my family’s Haitian art collection wand was on view at Preservation Hall during the program. This collection was started by my grandfather in 1944 and has now amassed to over 400 artworks. I have been curating exhibitions with it around New Orleans since 2015 in an effort to illustrate Haiti’s vastly under discussed connection to the city. In addition to works from the collection, this series features relics from my grandparents’ lives such as letters that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother and pictures that he took of her during their time together.

Image: The room that contained works (paintings, ironworks, etc.) from the actual collection.

I hosted all of the cohort in this extremely intimate space behind the public area of Preservation Hall and provided a glimpse of my curatorial practice while also sharing more about myself and family in very vulnerable ways. But it was also empowering, and I recall David Ayala-Alfonso saying that viewing the exhibition made him think about how he could integrate his family more into his practice to help them better understand it. Having the ability to share space and perspectives with such a dynamic group of individuals fed my practice in a countless number of ways. Now I feel stronger about the roles that my Haitian heritage and New Orleans nativity play in my work and the volume of my curatorial voice is forever changed for the better as a result.

Image: The interactive activity I created for visitors to reflect on around the exhibition themes and the idea of forgotten beauty (bote bliye)

Image: The room which contained relics and mementos from my grandfather and grandmother's lives (i.e. University of Montreal medical school class photo, letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother, wedding photos from Haiti, etc.)