23 October 2020


 Friday Special | Erika Serodio

Lately, I’ve been trying to think about those things that were hard in a pre-pandemic world and are easier now. Things like commuting to class in the morning, spending all afternoon working in the library, and then really dreading that evening workshop or lecture I had previously added to my agenda. Sometimes I would just call it a day and go home instead of attending. I promise myself that when this is all over, I’m never going to be home again. Catch me at every social engagement, evening lecture, etc. etc., forever, for the rest of my life, cross my heart and hope to die. But until then, I’m telling myself, isn’t it nice that after a long day of sitting at my desk, I can curl up on my couch with a bowl of popcorn (glass of wine) and attend a lecture with outstanding museum professionals from all over the world? A past version of myself would have loved this. Current me – a silver lining. 

A Silver Lining | Source

Anyway, join me in making the most of this twisted world. And remember that if you make it to that zoom lecture, and you decide that A. you've been zooming enough lately, or B. it's not your thing, oops!  Technical difficulties! Back to Netflix. But I do hope you find something in this list that you enjoy. And I invite you to link to any other interesting events in the comments section. 

ETHEL and Friends: Balcony Bar from Home

Start your Friday night off right with the Met’s resident string quartet playing live in your living room:

Friday, October 23, 2020 (& every Friday for the rest of 2020)
5:00 PM – 5:30 PM EST
Free admission

Becoming Public Art: Working Models & Case Studies for Art in Public

Spend your Tuesday afternoons learning from industry experts on the forces shaping public art making today. Presented by the City of Markham and ART+PUBLIC UnLtd. 

October 13 to December 8, 2020
Every Tuesday from 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM EST
Free admission, Registration required

Rayyane Tabet / Alien Property: In Light of What We Know Now

Sit in on a conversation between Met curators and contemporary artist Rayyane Tabet as they consider how their perspectives on an exhibition have changed with respect to global events this past year. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Free admission, Registration required

ART CONNECTS | Fall Reading Session With Indigenous Brilliance

Join Afuwa, Emily Dundas Oke, Jónína Kirton, and Michelle Sylliboy for a poetic and artistic response to the Vancouver Art Gallery's current exhibition: Uncommon Language

Thursday, October 29, 2020
Free admission

Innovate: Public Spaces with Silo Studio

Visit with a curator from the Victoria & Albert Museum and two London-based designers who focus on designing for community spaces. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020
12 PM EST (5 PM UK)
Free admission

AGO Live: Brendan Fernandes: The Left Space

This choreographed performance will use the grid formation of zoom to connect a team of dancers from their homes around the world, while engaging with the language of protests in our current time of global political uprisings. An interview between the artist and curator will follow.

Friday, November 6, 2020
Free admission, Registration required

21 October 2020


Object of the Week | Caitlin McCurdy

Rear of a Daguerreotype advertising portraits and lessons. Source

With the advent of any new artistic technology, from the earliest, crudest sculptures of early mankind, to painting or photography, one of the first things to be depicted seems to be the nude form of women. The ancient Greeks did it, 15th century painters like Sandro Botticelli did it, and with the advent of Daguerreotypes by Francois Daguerre in 1839, a technology was made available that allowed a larger audience to produce and distribute highly sophisticated reproductions of the female form. Each Daguerreotype was a unique image on a silvered copper plate, and portrait studios quickly became commercial enterprises. This inflation of the portrait market allowed a second market to develop for portraits of a more scandalous nature.

This week’s Object of the Week is a collection of nude Daguerreotypes from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The museum has over 2000 Daguerreotypes, but the female nudes reveal a history of Paris’ 19th century porn market, and where lines were being delineated between artistic representation and pornography. In researching for this article, I found that often Daguerreotypes were being defined between this line of what 19th century morality would allow and what it deemed too vulgar for the masses.

Example of a more demure nude. Source

Daguerreotypes did not render the colour of the subjects they captured, so many were coloured by hand. The vast majority of Daguerreotype studio owners were men, so all examples of nudes in this article were taken by men. The first daguerreotype highlighted in this article, seen above, depicts a woman in a transparent gown, standing against a mirror. Her hands, up in her hair braiding, conceal her breasts from view. This photo suggests a spontaneous glimpse into a private moment, a teasing of nudity rather than the more provocative examples to come.

The next example is described in the Getty collection as a study of a woman resting on a divan in profile. This appears to be the generally accepted “artist’s study” of female nudity, rather than outright pornography. Her pose mimics the stance of ancient marble statues, the nude of a different era.

An "Artist's Study". Source

The images tend to begin being described as pornographic when there is more than one subject in the frame. The following, titled Two Women Embracing is described as “posturing teetered between artist’s study and pornography”. The poses appear to be more for the pleasure of the observer, positioned to be revealed to the camera. It feels voyeuristic, looking in at an intimate spontaneous moment between lovers. However, knowing that the process behind producing a Daguerreotype could take several minutes, the models likely had to hold this pose for an unnatural amount of time while the photo was being taken.

Two Women Embracing. Source.

The question I keep returning to in my study of nudity within museum collections is when does the female body switch from an artistic study of form to pornography. My first, instinctual answer is that this switch occurred with the emergence of photographic representation of contemporary women, as they may appear more relevant and scandalizing to contemporary museum audiences than a centuries old painting or sculpture. The reality, however, is likely more complex than my answer. There are examples of paintings that pushed this distinction too far, crossing the line between artistic appreciation of form into more explicitly erotic depictions. But the availability of technologies like the Daguerreotype allowed a greater number of people to create reproductions of nudity.

Voyeurism and the Nude. Source

These Daguerreotypes were produced and sold out of Paris’ underground porn market, a reaction against crackdowns on a perceived morality crisis. In the example above, Two Nudes in Boudoir Studio Setting, the viewer is again intruding on a fabricated private moment. The shape of the frame also suggests an air of voyeurism, as if they are peering through a viewfinder at the scene within. The quiet intimacy of the subjects, leaning against the surrounding objects of the room reflects common artistic practices within the medium. The women in these images mirror the positions of the singular artist’s study of female nudes, and yet the presence of both women causes these examples to cross the line over into the pornographic.

Why is this? All these examples are functionally the same, pictures taken by men of nude women in similar time periods. My best estimation at this time is that the presence of another contains with it the suggestion of further action. What happened in the boudoir moments after the Daguerreotype was taken? Perhaps therein lies the answer, what makes these images pornographic lies in the voyeur’s imagination.

20 October 2020


 GLAM Gets Mindful | Melissa Mertsis


As I'm sure many of us know, even in normal times the job search process is stressful. Factor in COVID-19, the fact that graduation is a few months away, and the generalized anxiety and stress about the state of the world... it seems basically impossible. But, I have some good news — it is possible, and you can do it! Although job applications are a ton of work, you can take some stress off of your plate by following some of the tips and tricks I've come across in my own job search journey. This list is by no means exhaustive, and I encourage you to capitalize on the tips and tricks that work best for you — anything you can do to make this stressful process easier is a success in my books! Let's get started.

This article, where the image is from, also has some helpful tips about job search stress!

My first tip is to make a LinkedIn account, if you haven't already, and to frequently update it. It is way easier to monitor and update your account regularly than to scramble and try to remember everything you did the past few months at that one time when you need it during the job search. LinkedIn isn't just about job experience — you can also highlight volunteer experiences, internships, and notable projects which are all interesting to potential employers. There's also a section at the bottom where you can describe some of your best skills, similar to a "qualifications" section on a resume, so make sure you are taking advantage of selling your skills in as many ways as possible on LinkedIn — employers will look at your profile, and the more well-rounded you are, the better!

Another function on LinkedIn I think is especially helpful is the "recommendations" section. Essentially, this area on LinkedIn allows people that you have worked with in the past to write you mini reference letters, detailing what they enjoyed about working with you, endorsing important skills that you have, and sharing any other information they think people should know about you. Something I did last year was a "recommendation exchange" with some of my friends and peers where we all wrote each other recommendations based on experiences we've had with each other, and it was really successful! This is also a great way to source people to write you a reference letter in the future (it also doesn't hurt to know what people think you do really well).

The image above is from this article on the importance of networking.

Something you hear a lot in the program is that networking is important in the job search. When I first heard this I was extremely intimidated — I had no idea how to network with someone in person, let alone online during a pandemic. However, I have found that networking is actually not as scary as you think! "Networking" can look like a lot of things. Most recently I have gotten into the habit of connecting with guest speakers from class on LinkedIn to thank them for their time and referencing something I really enjoyed about their presentation. Many speakers also share their personal emails — so use it to your advantage! Your professors are also great opportunities for networking, so don't be afraid to reach out to them on LinkedIn or through their e-mails to start conversations that expand beyond your courses. Professors are usually happy to connect and help out, and it doesn't hurt that they usually know a ton of people in the field!

Another tip I have is keeping a baseline CV and/or resume and cover letter prepped to go at all times. A successful job application is a specially tailored job application, but that doesn't mean you can't make it a little easier for yourself. I have a "template" resume that has a lot of my experience on it that I adjust as I apply to different jobs. Although you still have to put the work in to tailor the resume and cover letter, it's a lot easier if the resume is already formatted how you like it. I also find it helpful to look back at how past-Melissa described some of my jobs; sometimes I really like how I worded something, or sometimes the time passed has made me realize I'd like to change something. Either way, having baseline documents from which to work frees up a lot of your time to spend on advertising your skills, instead. If you need help writing a strong CV, resume, or cover letter, check out some of the great resources that the Faculty of Information offers.

This image by Toby Mac is important to keep in mind when job hunting!

Finally, my last tip for this article is to give yourself time and try to keep morale up —"if it doesn't open, it probably isn't your door." If a job doesn't work out, try to frame it as a positive experience; it just simply was not meant to be. Jobs that you don't get can be just as valuable as the ones that you do get, and rejections, although sometimes tough to handle, are a great way to reflect on your practices and experiences and figure out how to improve. Don't hesitate to ask for feedback from the employer you were not successful with, most times they are happy to share and they might have extremely valuable feedback! There's another saying that "good things fall apart so better things can come together" — maybe you have something great just around the corner, so keep your LinkedIn updated, your mind open, and your resume ready to go!

19 October 2020


(Fun)draising | Samantha Summers

Heather Nelson is an expert fundraiser, with over a decade of experience in the field and millions of dollars raised for important causes. In 2016 she founded Bridgeraise, a consultancy firm which helps nonprofits manage relationships with corporate partners and sponsors. We sat down to talk about the difference between fundraising in the arts and fundraising for social services, the reputation fundraising has in the GLAM sector, and how small museums can compete with the ROM.

There seems to be this disconnect between the field of fundraising and arts and culture fundraising and development. A lot of arts fundraisers seem to get into it from other places in the sector, from education or curation, whereas in the development world it seems like most professional development people don’t work a lot with the arts and culture sector.

Fundraising traditionally has been connected to organizations that have a social service or social justice direction, where the need is to save lives. Fundraisers are generally raising money off of a story of impact on the individual or on society, and I don’t think arts organizations have done particularly well at positioning themselves in that place. 

A lot of fundraising activities are actually just relationship-building. (Image source.)

One of the tough things about fundraising in the arts is the “ask,” because art isn’t strictly a requirement for survival and therefore attracts fewer donations. It’s so much easier to say, “We need X amount of money to buy a CAT scan to help a sick child,” versus, “We need X amount of money to buy this really cool painting.”

Arts organizations have a history of having another way [of supporting themselves]. Entry fees and government have always been the way they pay for themselves, and maybe a few corporate sponsors. They’re selling a product [access to art and history], either to corporate sponsors or to individuals. You don’t need fundraisers for that. A fundraiser’s skills are in telling the story of the gap, the cause, the need. If your financial model doesn’t require that, then why would you hire someone whose skill it is? But now the government isn’t covering costs, and there is a need for the skills of a professional fundraiser. That’s not where the arts community has built up a lot of people.

What do you think are the key things non-fundraising fundraisers, people who are in a semi-fundraising role but don’t have the training or that skill set in arts organizations, need to be learning?

One of the things you need to do is think about what your money story is. You’re going to be talking about money, and you need to think that through. Are you uncomfortable asking for money? Do you not like saying money out loud? Do you not like even talking to your family about money? You need to work through that. The second thing I’d say is focus on the fact that most of fundraising is relationship building. Forget about the money for a while. Now that you’ve thought it through, put it aside and spend your energy building relationships. That is the core of fundraising. At some point you will have to ask for money, but you can spend quite a bit of time bringing [people] closer to your organization and not thinking about the fundraising part at all. Third is keep it simple. One of the things that sometimes happens is you don’t want to ask for money so you build this elaborate event or activity, and all this time is spent on creating materials to put as many layers of buffer between you and the actual asking of the money. Really what that does is just suck tons of time and money that is not actually raising more for the organization. At the end of the day, it really is a waste of money. You don’t need ambitious galas or fancy decks and proposals and all kinds of things to raise money. Put less there, keep that simple, and put more energy into getting to know people.

Working with databases and spreadsheets is another major component of fundraising. (Image source.)

I see people in my faculty often not thinking about fundraising, whereas I take the position that everyone in a museum is involved in fundraising. I see people not realizing it’s going to be a major part of their professional lives. Educators give tours, and curators create exhibitions that bring in potential new donors. Everyone is connected to it.

And they’re connected to it because it pays their salaries. If your fundraiser isn’t effective, you lose your job. A good organization has everyone working together, and those other players have to understand how big a part they are in this fundraising ecosystem.

And most people don’t realize that most fundraising isn’t chatting up billionaires. Most fundraising is annual giving, memberships, etc.

That isn’t the bulk of what is publicized, however. These big individual gifts and corporate gifts that get such big profiles are good because they provide credibility and help build trust and show what is possible. However, they sometimes set up unreasonable expectations about what is possible. All these small gifts are the engine that drives most fundraising for these big ones to pop up here and there.

It probably makes it much more intimidating for non-fundraising fundraisers, too. I imagine it’s scary to go into a role thinking that you’re expected to become best friends with the Westons.

Because I’m a corporate fundraiser, people think I introduce myself going, “Hi, can I have a million dollars?” The percentage of time I’ve spent actually asking for money is tiny. Most of the time I’m trying to figure out what the partnership looks like that I’m working on, thinking about messaging, looking at how a person is going to be thanked. Many people who are involved in the fundraising sector are never at the point where they’re asking for money. They’re building messaging, writing letters, and those things. In the fundraising sector, as a whole, only a fraction of them ask for money. It’s about more than that. The arts sector is positioned on this challenging side, where it doesn’t have a strong social need. What it does have that’s the envy of everyone else is Patron’s Circles, special events, all these things that you can get access to that others don’t have. Arts organizations have a real advantage. They have physical things, or a tangible experience they can offer. Those benefits are very valuable to the people to whom they’re very valuable. One of the mistakes is trying to sell to people who don’t care.

The vast majority of arts and culture institutions are small local heritage houses or galleries, but the majority of fundraising most people see are nationwide campaigns by the ROM and the like. If that’s all someone is familiar with when they go to work at a small institution, they’re screwed.

I see lots of envy. Like, “I’m not the ROM, but I’ll try to do what they do but not as well,” as opposed to saying, “This is who I am, and this is what’s awesome about who I am.” If what you’re awesome at is bringing a heritage organization to a community that has no other heritage organization, do that. Use that. Focus on what makes you special—you’re special to the community you’re in. You have special benefits you can give people, so what does that look like? Do they get special seats or a special tour? You can do all those things and they’re in your control. You don’t have to ask 2000 people like you do when you try to do something at the ROM. There are three people that work at your organization. You can get together and say, “Hey, two weeks from Friday, we’re going to have people over for coffee in the afternoon,” or, “The curator of this particular thing is going to get on a Zoom call with whoever wants to join.” And even if there are only four people that want to join, who cares? That’s four people who get to know you better, and eventually, might send some money. When you’re smaller, embrace that and focus on the relationships you have access to.