Opinion Piece 2 : Crossing the streams

When Chris Dercon of Tate Modern moved his office away from the curators and closer to the art educators he was prefiguring  or at least recognising a change in the way the arts does business. No longer is the arts the sole domain of the curator. There is much more to art engagement than purely providing the art.  But as I suggested in my last opinion piece,  to dismiss the roll of key academics such as curators is a mistake. After the collection, it is these  staff that provide the soul of an arts institution. Art educators are  also now equally important in democratising and expanding arts audiences. But not every institution can afford to have both roles operating at the same time. The question can be asked, “have curatorial and art education roles run their course?”.  What new capabilities would these roles gain if they could somehow be hybridised?  Using the knowledge of one discipline to directly inform the other as opposed to being mutual advisors.

It could be argued already that for some  smaller arts organisations  the role of curator  also acts as an art educator  and vice versa.  The suggestion I make goes beyond an economic ‘adhoc’ position. The relationship between the two roles in the 21st century is symbiotic. Good curators will acknowledge that the value of their work is improved with good art education programs. Art education is  by itself meaningless unless provided with something of intellectual or emotional value  to educate from. Instead, I suggest the development of  education programs that merge the two disciplines. The future of the art world is that of fluidity. The era of the curator as “God” does not necessarily apply to all arts institutions responding to their community needs,  nor does it assist larger organisations in remaining relevant. Art education should also be kept at arms length from elitism. The future is in an art role that values both the integrity of the art work and the  expression of this to the wider community  in a meaningful way. When  I said the art world was changing, I never said it was going to be easy.

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