What is a Curator?

By Maiza Hixson

The term Curator comes from the Latin word “curare,” which means “to take care” and before you fall asleep from this academic introduction, please hear me out. While caring and connoisseurship are aspects of a curator’s job, there is much more to curating than wearing white gloves and dusting off masterpieces. Stereotypes aside, curators today perform many activities—from community outreach and educational programming—to writing and public arts advocacy. Anyone can pick out a work of art and hang it on a wall. Curators, however, try to understand the gallery space, city, audience, and context in which they work. Like politicians, curators try to serve their constituency without getting impeached. My goal is to inspire people to think differently about the world and their own lives by exposing them to new and creative ideas through art.

Curating Social Experience

Curators of contemporary art must reflect the type of art being made by living artists rather than solely paying homage to already famous artists or dead artists whose legacies are already canonized. Working with living artists is challenging and exciting. Artists spend a large amount of time thinking about what to make, how and why to make it. Curating requires getting to know an artist’s work, its unique visual language and logic.

But what is art?

Art is not easy to define; Art is not mere decoration. The best art is often uncomfortable rather than beautiful to look at. We should not be too quick to dismiss what seems ugly or difficult to grasp. After all, we don’t storm into a biologist’s laboratory and demand to understand everything going on under the microscope all at once. Yet many people walk into an art gallery and become annoyed if not angry if they don’t immediately “get” what they see. To these gallery goers, I say RELAX! Let Yourself Off the Hook. It takes years for artists to develop their practice and thus a quick visit to the gallery will not be sufficient to comprehend what it all means. That’s why curators study the artists’ work FOR YOU (kind of), write about it, and put their writing on the wall. You don’t have to listen to us but please know that we are trying to figure it out.