For 2018, we have begun to invite guest curators to share in the process of artist selection and mentorship. Through the expansion of our curation team we can further enhance our process of building a diverse roster of. talented local and international artists for the festival. This year we received over 700 artist submissions during our public call. Roxanne Charles, joins our Lead Curator Drew Young and our cohort of guest curators Scott Sueme and Pennylane Shen for the 2018 season.
What excites you about curating for VMF?
I am very excited to work with the Vancouver Mural Festival. Curation for me has always been an opportunity to explore space, help raise awareness of social issues, and help amplify voices which have somehow been ignored or even suppressed. Curating outdoors in urban spaces for a large festival like the Vancouver Mural Festival is completely new to me. I am excited to explore the space, the buildings, businesses, walls, and look at how we can alter these spaces and activate them in a way which can benefit the community at large.
What are the challenges of curating for a public art festival like VMF?
For me I think some of the challenges are the amount of work and preparation that goes into a Festival like this, with securing the walls. It is not like a gallery space that one is familiar with, it is a city space with a lot of complex layers and the turn around time can be quite limited from the time the walls have been secured and the art works go up. This may not have be a challenge for others but in terms of the way I work, space and understanding the historical and current use of a site is very important to me, so I like to be present and on the ground to explore the space. This gives me an opportunity to connect to the space and experience it.
What is your background in the arts? OR What prepared you for this role?
I graduated from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 2016 and I’m currently completing my MFA at Simon Fraser University. I have always had a love for art, however, I began curating when I recognized the need for dialogue around a lot of issues surrounding the environment, indigenous rights, food security, systemic violence and sovereignty. I never really viewed myself as a curator, however, I saw a need for dialogue and recognized how art was able to facilitate that in creative ways. So I started bringing together artists and art works to have conversations with one another around some difficult subject matter. From there I have had incredible opportunities to curate some fantastic shows which is what ultimately led me to this opportunity to co-curate the Vancouver Mural Festival. Curating the Vancouver Mural Festival is never something that I thought I would be doing and I’m very excited to be recognized as a curator and asked to participate this year.
What is really inspiring you right now to do your work?
A lot of the work I am doing right now is response work in that it responds to the world around me and tries to navigate the space through ceremony. As a weaver, I look at the history of weaving and the traditional knowledge that I hold in relation to a spiritual realm and how spiritual objects speak to not only the physical world around us but possibility and spiritual aspects of our future. What is fuelling and driving my work right now is the urgency of environmental issues around wild salmon, lumber exploitation, urbanization, the expansion of the tar sands and how they are all directly impacting our way of life and ultimately creating a global crisis. For me there are a mixture of things inspiring me in relation to my perceptions of the emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical realms of the world around me.
What has been a highlight of your career so far?
I feel like I am just at the beginning of my career right now and one of the most exciting things I am participating in right now would be this opportunity to co-curate the Vancouver Mural festival but also to have my work included in a show at the Vancouver Art Gallery in June called How We Carry The Land. It is truly an honour to have me work recognize and included in such valuable conversations.
What is the process you go through when curating an exhibition?
When curating an exhibition there’s usually a conversation that I want to engage the general public in. And I look for creative ways to do that and look for various artists who are able to have those conversations speak through their work and through their various mediums. Also looking at how those artists and those works can have conversations with each other and speak to a diverse and large audience. My hope is that then the audience can witness and filter the exhibition and carry on the conversation outside of the space.
Space is very important to my work as well, so it has been interesting to come into a cityscape such as Mount Pleasant and try to navigate the space, buildings and find fits for the artist as well as conversations that might be and take place in the space. Given the short turnaround of when we start to look at the walls and bring our vision to life the task of curating the space has been harder than any other show that I’ve had the opportunity to curate.
Do you have any advice for someone who would want to get into your line of work?
For anyone that is interested in being an artist or a curator, I would say just follow your passion and be committed to have conversations through art about what you are most passionate about. Although I formally studied at various institutions for art, I never had the dream of being an artist or a curator, it was more about making the work to have a dialogue with people and have a conversation about issues that I care deeply about.
Often it’s been a lot about the process rather than the final product and about relationships and the relationships built through those processes. About how art and process can bring out numerous conversations in a way which seeks to strengthen our understandings and relationships to one another and our environment. I feel that my success as an artist and as a curator has come out of my commitment to those conversations rather than trying to attain the role of an artist or curator. Most of my work has come through word-of-mouth and I believe that is because of the passion I put into the work I do.