Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Circulation Submission

As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I am a Museology graduate student, but I am also a graduate student with the iSchool in the Master of Library and Information Sciences.  I'll be pulling some of what I learned on information behaviors into the paper I write for this thesis project.  A student organization called Circulation had a call for submissions of what iSchool students worked on over the summer.  Here's what I submitted:

I have been dealing in secrets all summer.  Your immediate reaction to this might be to think that I am a gossip.  Or power hungry.  Or Varys from A Song of Fire and Ice. But you'd be wrong, because the secrets I've read and collected are anonymous.  And for school. 
You are always on my mind and I wish like hell you would have stayed, but only if you could have been happy.

See, I'm working on my thesis for the Museology program and it will be a project and a paper focused on an exhibit of contemporary art at the Kirkland Arts Center.  The exhibit is titled Secrets Can... I added the ellipses because I want visitors to figure out what comes after the "..." for a more personal experience.  For me, I've always been fascinated by factual and fictional stories.  I want to understand the way humans act and interact.  Why did that person behave that way? What was their motivation? Why are humans compelled by secrets? Why do people keep secrets if they hurt?  Why do people share secrets if it comes at a price?  Why are some secrets happy - little pebbles, warm in our hands and hearts and while are others are heavy stones in our pockets that would drown us if given the chance?
I love the villains.  "Good" guys are overrated. I think I would make a terrifyingly good villain.

The exhibit will focus on the depiction of secrets and how secrets affect the relationships we have with ourselves and each other.  As a burgeoning professional in museums, libraries, and information science, I'm specifically interested in how these fields come together and where secrets may lie in that intersection.  Secrets, to me, fall squarely into human information behaviors - whether we're keeping the secret, sharing a secret, or having a secret shared with us.  Secrets are bits of information that are not known or seen by others, and the nature of a secret is that they are meant to stay unknown and unseen.  As humans we want to know The Thing and we might think we will have something to gain from knowing The Thing (hey, Varys!) and sometimes we keep The Thing to ourselves for fear of what others will think, say, and do. 
I feel like I am always hiding behind a mask.

Where are people sharing secrets?  Are secrets still secrets if they are shared?  Well, as mentioned before, the answers are "the Internet" and "yes, if shared anonymously".  I have been familiar with PostSecret for years now, diligently checking the most visited ad-free blog in the world every Sunday morning.  A community art project that involves mail?  Anyone who knows me knows that community, art, and mail are some of my favorite things.  I was vaguely aware of the Whisper application for smart phones.  But I was curious as to what else was out there.  I sat down in June to compile a list of all of the possible places people come together to collect secrets.  I thought it might be three to five sites with PostSecret being the most developed.  Well, I stopped writing my list at twenty, and while PostSecret was, indeed, the most known secret sharing option out there, the sites and applications I came across like Six Billion Secrets, SecretsAnon, Confess, and Babbly were all new to me and all robust in either active community members or web development.
I flirt with people in authority positions for preferential treatment.

In fact, as my proposal for the exhibit was wrapping up last school year, I very nearly tripped over a pop-up secret-sharing board in Red Square run by a site called Sondry.  How is it that all of these platforms, sites, and applications can exist?  Well, it's because everyone, even your mom, has at least one secret.  A secret wish, a secret fear, a sad secret, an angry secret, a happy secret.  There are parts of ourselves that we hold just for ourselves, either out of self preservation or because there is no possible way to upload our every thought, desire, and emotion into the cloud and have someone download it into their head to understand us the way we understand us.  We are all so together in our shared experience of having secrets, but we are all so individual in the exact blend of secrets we keep.

Your soul is a magnet to my soul.  You are a bright sun and I, a lowly planet, want to be in your orbit.  I feel a lightness and happiness like none other when I am with you.  I could let myself fall in love with you.

In July I started to develop an academic literature review of the psychology and social science of secrets.  It's not yet a robust list of books and articles.  I'm desperate to get back to school so I can be on campus daily and consult one of the many friendly reference librarians at Suzzallo or Allen for help with fleshing this part of my thesis out.  In August I started making contact with some artists whose work speaks to me on the topic in hopes that they'll agree to be part of my show.  So... that is what I have been doing with my summer. Working towards the opening of my exhibit next winter - trying to understand the science, art, and heart of secrets.  In September I will finish up my summer internship and have a couple of weeks before school starts.  What will I do with the rest of my summer?  Well, that's my secret.


When it's published, it might be in a PDF format.  If it is, I'll link it to this blog if possible.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

What does Secrets Can… even mean?

    The initial concept for this exhibit was not secrets.  Well, not really.  Wilson, the ECI instructor, told us that our concept had to be well-developed, simple enough to remember, and powerful enough to make people interested.  I originally started this project wanting to highlight the work of graphic storytellers like Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, and Ellen Forney.  

     I liked the way that they each used an art form that is often disregarded as childish (cartoons and graphic novels) to discuss heavier topics.  I’ve always been drawn to graphic novels and online webcomics as I love illustrative art forms.  I believe that illustration lends itself well to telling “hard” stories.  I wonder if the medium softens the blow?  Or if it reminds us of a time when our stories were simpler?  Illustrated memoirs evoke feelings of empathy within me.  They also evoke appreciation for the brave storyteller.

    Wilson had me drill down the concept from “graphic artists telling personal stories” to “storytelling” and “bringing stories into the light.”  I started my rough concept proposal with this:
 It is not easy for us to discuss what we find dark or difficult in our lives.  It takes a brave soul to admit they feel weak.  When we bring our truth and our stories out of the darkness and into the light, we take a risk in sharing them with others.  However, the reward for taking that risk can be great.  Our story may reflect another person’s experiences.  Our stories may cause people to stop and think.  When we share our stories courageously, we ask (and hope) that others will treat us with kindness.  In turn, we also learn from the stories of the people living around us. We can become better people by listening to what they have to say, seeing what they do with their story, and feeling for them as they have felt for us.

     Wilson and Anna gave me great feedback and asked me to drill down even further to the center of the concept.  What was it? Why did I find this topic so compelling?  I did a lot of soul searching and I started identifying artwork that spoke to me.  I noticed the theme of “secrets” emerge and I rolled it around in my head like an anxious person might worry a stone in their hand.  Once I found the art that fit the theme, I needed to refine the concept and I kept coming up short.  Nothing was sitting with me just right.  

     I started drawing idea webs and trying to find common threads among words popping up for me.  I printed the artwork, pasted it on to 3’ x 5’ cards and carried them around with me.  I taped them to the walls, color coded them, and made tape lines between any pieces that correlated to me.  I found myself saying this often: “Secrets can Transform You” and “Secrets can Connect You” or “Secrets can Isolate You” and I changed my perspective.  Instead of focusing on what the outcome or end-result of having a secret is, I’d focus on “Secrets Can…”

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    I know people are torn on ellipses.  I tend to use them a lot in my own writing because I write in a way that mimics my speaking voice and a sentence will often trail off as my brain considers something new before the old thought was fully developed.  I like it for the title and concept of the exhibit because it is almost like a “fill in the blank.”  Secrets - and the act of sharing or keeping them - mean different things to different people.

     Some of the art is of individuals clearly stifling something.  Some of it is of people being changed. Some of it is of people being released.  Some of it is of a group where all share a secret or just one has the secret.  I’m interested in the human experience of secrets.  I’m also hoping that the message people leave with is: we’ve all experienced them, we all have them, and we’re each dealing with our own struggles on a daily basis.  

     It comes back to the graphic novels I like and how I feel about storytelling.  Everyone is working through something in their lives.  Sometimes we need to keep that in mind when we get frustrated with people who cut us off in traffic or don’t come through on a project or cancel plans at the last minute.  So for me, Secrets Can… is like a reminder to be empathetic and means: Secrets Can Connect Us.  What does Secrets Can… mean for you?

Until next time, 

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Initial Thoughts - Secrets Can... Exhibit

When I opened my email and saw that I was selected to be the next student in the ECI program I cried.  I did.  I was in the UW Tower, catching up on life and doing homework and I teared up and smiled like a complete goon to myself for the next several hours.  That glow and excitement stayed with me for days afterward and even now sometimes it dawns on me that I get to do this Really Cool Thing.  I was also in shock.  I took a slight risk with my concept, perhaps leaving it a bit more open ended than my mentors would have suggested, but I believed strongly in the core ideas and submitted it anyway.  Everyone who was in ECI with me that quarter had phenomenal ideas.  I was excited to see any of them come to life.  I was astonished to be chosen, but it felt like I was truly on the path I had envisioned.

You see, the ECI program was one of the things that drew me to Museology.  I was already in the thick of a graduate program (Library and Information Science), but I was looking to grow as a creative professional.  I kept coming back to my love for art, my love for learning, and my love for special community places.  When I was in grade school, my favorite assignment was to create an exhibit for a "5th Grade Museum."  My partner and I chose airplanes as our topic.  I remember the thrill of brainstorming and how good it felt to stretch my creative muscles.  It was the first time I had considered appealing to all five senses and thinking outside of the box.  (I mean, we brought in a toy plane and got a CD of airplane sounds and (in a move that would not be okay today) served our patrons peanuts).  I think it was then that I got addicted to the idea of creative learning spaces.

I went into Elementary Education and History at UW-Madison.  I really loved writing lesson plans and coming up with new ways to share information to the next generation, but I knew that I did not want to work in a traditional classroom.  I loved my student teaching experience at a Reggio Emilia inspired preschool (where art and science and lesson plans are directed by the interest of the students and come together in organic and comprehensive lessons), but I also did not want to teach preschool for the rest of my career.  

I fantasized about working in a children's museum or starting my own gallery with art made by children (couldn't figure out how to keep something like that running for more than a couple of weeks before going broke).  While living in Miami I heard of a job opening at a local history museum to design curriculum for family learning programs.  I put my heart and soul into the application.  It was the first time I really thought, "Working in a museum is a real thing that real people do? I could do this!"  They didn't hire anyone for the job due to budget cuts, but the idea was planted in my brain.

I decided to go to graduate school to become a librarian and information professional.  I liked the possibilities and wide range of jobs.  With an MLIS and the right experience you can find yourself working at a public library, academic library, teaching people about technology, wrangling metadata, organizing knowledge as an information architect, working in a corporate library, reveling in history as an archivist, cataloging interesting books for special collections, reading to children at storytime, managing digital assets, publishing papers on a wide variety of research topics, and more.  I thought it would be a good professional move.  And it has been.  I have been able to network with amazing folks in Seattle and around the country.  I've learned concepts that are very similar to those in Museology.  And it introduced me to the word "Museology."  

My advisor, the ever patient Marie, fielded all of my questions about this graduate program that some MLIS students took classes in.  She introduced me to the idea of getting a concurrent masters degree.  She gave me the contact information for Maya who gave me the contact information for Lisa who scheduled an appointment with Kris who became my advisor when I applied.  Without my MLIS experience, I wouldn't have sat in on the Museology Open House or heard Wilson talk about something called the Emerging Curator Initiative.  The moment Wilson explained his ECI seminar, I knew I wanted in on it.  I don't know if he remembers, but I asked him about it during our orientation.  

And here I am!  And here you are!  Reading about me and my convoluted path to professional bliss.  I'm so excited to be sharing my experience here with you on this space.  I'm so excited to be working with KAC on this project and learning from them via the internship.  I'd like to thank them for selecting me and having faith in my ability to pull a show together from my concept (which I'll share later!).  Anna was immeasurably helpful when putting together my proposal.  I'm thrilled to get the chance to work with her closely these next several months.  I'd like to thank Wilson for being my exhibit and Museology guru.  He puts up with my constant questions.  And I'd really like to thank Grant, my predecessor, who was incredibly generous with his time and provided me with tips, tricks, and told me to 'chill' when I needed to hear it.  Your show was great, Grant, I have big shoes to fill.  With those thanks, I bid you adieu.  

Until next time,        

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Closing & Musing

In typical fashion, I am late on posting updates. Especially with the exhibit's now ethereal existence in the past.

The end of the show was definitely bittersweet for me. While it is nice to have completed the entire process of curating, designing, installing, and deinstalling an exhibit, I was sad to see the exhibit go.

The deinstall of Imaginature went very smoothly and before I knew it, along with a great thanks to the wonderful Anna Braden, the art was off the walls and all packaged up, ready to make its way back home. All of the artists picked up their works within the couple pick up days and I delivered some artworks back to a couple of the galleries across town. It was an odd feeling after dropping off the last couple artworks at the final gallery and realizing that that action was my final step of actually working on Imaginature.

The remaining process for the Emerging Curator Initiative involves writing up my thesis paper detailing everything that I did to put this fantastic exhibit together. I feel incredibly lucky to have been given this opportunity and wanted to say thank you again to every artist, gallery, and KAC staff member for all of your support, along with anyone else who has helped me along the way. This has been an amazingly special time not just in my career, but also my life.

It is with heavy heart that I say that this is my last blog update. Onwards to paper writing.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Beginning of a New Era

As usual, my posting is infrequent but I am here to say that I have curated and installed my first art exhibit!

The opening reception, which was now over 4 weeks ago, was absolutely amazing and passed by in my memory as a fantastic blur. I first want to say that I am incredibly thankful for everybody that made that night so great and a thank you to the artists and galleries that worked with me to put this exhibit together. You beautiful people are the best. It was great to meet more of the artists in the exhibit and finally show off the project that I have been working on for the past year. While I haven't looked at the exact attendance numbers yet, I have heard that the exhibit is being well received.

One aspect of Imaginature that is receiving a lot of attention is the felt wall. It has been a huge hit with families, children and adults alike. Although there have been fewer emailed pictures of monsters that I had hoped, every time I come back to KAC the felt wall is completely changed over with a whole new crowd of monsters. It makes me very happy to see that people are engaging with this and I think that it is a great way to get kids excited about art and creativity. Check out all of the monsters and their stories at

Two weeks ago now, the class associated with the exhibit was held by local artists Renee Adams and Justin Gibbens. I hung around for the first two hours of the six hour class. Watching the people assemble their own imaginative creatures out of a random assortment of materials was incredibly cool. I saw squishy toys being cut up to make anemone-like appendages and the nubs of bath mat cut off to make something analogous to the suckers on an octopus tentacle. While I wanted to participate in the class anyway, I was incredibly bummed that I was not able to hang around for the whole day after seeing what some of the students were making.

Apart from everything that has been going on, it is an extremely cool and gratifying feeling that I get each time I go back to KAC. I look around and see all the art that I have only been seeing as little pictures in an excel sheet on my computer and I am unceasingly blown away at how amazing every single piece is. If I was a rich socialite, KAC is what my living room would look like. I am both very proud and thankful that I have had the opportunity to put this together.

Now that I've hyped you up talking about all the exciting things happening with the exhibit, I am going to drop you back down by talking about writing my thesis! Yaaayyyyy! I have begun the process of writing up every aspect of what I did with the exhibit including the ever-thrilling literature review. It has been a weird shift in pace from spending all of my time actually coordinating and actively doing things that contribute to the exhibit, to sitting down and trying to write a long academic paper. To be perfectly honest, it hasn't been fun. I enjoyed all the different aspects of putting the exhibit together that while it is still fun to talk about and possibly write about, I find myself staring at my laptop with the blank stupor of boredom. The beautiful change in the weather has further increased my distaste for sitting inside on my laptop. And so it goes.

This is everything I can think of for now but the exhibit is open for a couple more weeks until March 7th!!! Go check it out! Bring your friends and maybe even some strangers. They're gonna love it.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

2 Weeks

As per usual, I've been meaning to write an update for a while now. I figured the "2-weeks-to-open" mark would be good. There's actually just less than 2 weeks now but we'll let that slip.

Recent Activity
Two days ago I went all around Pioneer Square, Downtown, Belltown, and Cap Hill distributing postcards. My good friend Jimi came along and provided some serious moral support. Thanks Jimi! My phone doubles as a pedometer and it told me that we had apparently walked over 17,500 steps that day. So if you've ever been wondering, that's about how many steps it takes to cover most of downtown Seattle. Isn't that fascinating?!?!?

While walking around, I also dropped off stacks of postcards at the galleries that are providing artwork for the show. It was great to finally be able to meet some of the people face to face that I have been corresponding with. There is a good amount of excitement around the show among the participating galleries and it's been really great working with all these fantastic galleries and artists! It's also exciting that I am at the point where when I tell people about the show, it is not some far off date that is forgettable. It's nice to be able to give someone a postcard and say that two weekends from now this show will be up. It's a really good feeling.

I am still planning to distribute postcards throughout the couple neighborhoods around my house.

The press release (PR) for the show has been out for more than a week now and I am planning on writing a couple focused pitches for certain people/places that the PR was sent out to. It would be exciting if some venue actually writes about the show or anything! Originally I was planning on putting out the press release around Dec. 18, but the holidays got in the way and I was not finished with it yet. Along with having the PR not yet completed, I figured it would be a better idea to put out the press release after the holidays and New Years since it would likely become lost or forgotten with everything else that people are doing. It will also hopefully keep it fresh in peoples' minds.

This coming Monday the online/email invitation will be sent out. It actually took a pretty long time to design in Constant Contact, but it was finished after a couple of hours with a lot of help from my wonderful sensei Anna Braden. Apart from the online invitation, a gallery assistant at KAC was gracious enough to help me by posting both the reception and the run of the show to a number of online event calendars for Seattle.

I submitted a donation request to Elysian Brewing Co. in hopes of having Elysian beer at the opening reception of the show. They ask for three weeks before the event and I submitted the request on Dec. 24. I can't wait to hear back from them and see if my request was accepted!

I have just about all of the loan agreements for the show now. It's pretty official!

Coming up...
I have a list of the steps left to take before the completion of the exhibit in order to help me not go crazy trying to keep it all in my head. The list is definitely achievable but I know that several of the items just take a good amount of time. The largest of these to-do items being the interactive felt wall that is part of the exhibit.
After consulting Taylor Felt, an exhibit fabricator with whom I worked with to install an exhibit at the Klondike National Gold Rush Historical Park - Seattle Unit, I've arrived at the conclusion that I will need to wrap the felt around a board and mount the board to the wall. All today I have been working on designing the felt wall and figuring out the logistics to make it work. I'm really exited to start actually putting it together after it's designed. I'm hoping to bribe some friends with pizza and beer to help me cut out all the felt once I have all the designs.
Related to the felt wall, today I set up and Imgur album and account to post all the pictures and back-stories of the monsters that are made with the felt wall. It's is going to be really cool to see all the different types of monsters that people make.

The last day of the show that is currently up at KAC is Jan. 18. This means that after that day I begin the install process of the show! In the coming week I will be coordinating art pick-up and drop-offs to get all the art to the gallery. Then it it simply preparing the space for the show and beginning to organize the artwork in the space!!!

I'm ecstatic!

Thursday, November 13, 2014


I'm back for another thrilling installment of GRANT'S EXHIBIT UPDATES!!!!!

This may be some text vomit, so bear with me you beautiful, kind-hearted sea otter.

Over the weekend I went to Bellevue to meet up with Amy Spassov and Erik Hall of Hall Spassov Gallery. It was great to meet them both and they showed me around their gallery and storage to try to find some pieces for the show. I ended up choosing a couple great pieces and even randomly found a piece that I thought had already sold! 

As could be expected, there have been several small hurdles to get over, BUT a couple of them have been overcome! I now have my complete artist list. I'll let that sink in.... Yeah, I can see you're envious of how complete my artist list is. Now that the artist list is complete, I can begin working on promoting the show. This next week I am planning on creating the postcard for the show so that I can plaster the town with them as soon as they arrive. Also with the complete list, I can post links to the show and class in every corner of the internet and your inbox. Prepare yourself. 

HERE ARE LINKS TO THE EXHIBIT PAGE AND THE CLASS PAGE!!!!! Seriously, go sign up for the class. It is taught by two fantastic local artists and is very affordable for a 6-hour workshop that you don't have to buy materials for. It's going to be a lot of fun. Get on it.

I have been talking with multiple people concerning performing at least one small aspect of evaluation with my exhibit and I believe that I am finally narrowing it down. Thanks JLuke and Ellen! I will record the attendance numbers of the under 18 demographic in order to compare them to previous exhibits at KAC. Along with that I am thinking on putting together a short survey to ask if visitors used the felt wall, how long they were there, if they could describe the exhibit in a few words, and how they would describe what the concept of the exhibit is. Ballin.

 The stickies on my computer for the exhibit are starting to become unwieldy so I am writing down random bits that I think of as I go through them. Be calm, I'll get you the updates you're dying for. 

Currently KAC doesn't have a formal form for forming commission rates with artworks loaned from other galleries.  Unnecessary alliteration, I think not. This next week I will be working with Anna in order to draft a working version of the gallery commission form. 

In utero....
I am hoping to receive all of the loan agreements by the end of this month. I already have a decent number of them, so this goal should be relatively obtainable. Starting in December, I am likely going to start working on the aspects of the show that I can work on before install week, such as cutting out felt monster body parts. Never in some of my wilder dreams did I imagine that I would be able to type the last part of that sentence. Love it. 
I am also beginning to think about the gallery space in relation to the dimensions of the artworks that I will include. I have a few maps of the gallery printed out and will be trying my hardest to correctly add up numbers and ensure that I have enough wall-space in the gallery.

For now, I think this is everything that's floating around in my head. 
Good night my sweet princes and princesses, you are loved.