Feature: A Look Into the Role of the Curatorial Trainee

By Ashley Knowles

At the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, the job of a curatorial trainee begins with the preparation and execution of an exhibition; however, this is not where it all ends.

From the moment a curator has an idea or plan for an exhibition, the job of the curatorial trainee is set into motion. Alongside the curatorial assistant(s), the trainee(s) begin to hunt and gather. Vital information about artists and collectors are recorded and later contacted. The next step involves transporting pieces from collector’s homes and institutions, then photographing artwork to be placed in gallery storage. The photographs are little snippets of the art that allows the curator to peruse, and file away the art in their mind for framing ideas and final placement in the gallery space. Identifying mediums, measurements, artists, dates and collections for labeling is another task that has to be meticulously fulfilled for the exhibition and/or catalogue.

The de-installation of an exhibition takes place in the middle of the preparations for the next exhibition and requires paperwork for artwork being returned to collectors and artists. Art that belong in the NAGB collection are placed in storage. The handling of the artwork is dependent on the curatorial team and is carefully and swiftly implemented to have the pieces back in their owner’s possession. Any plans for the present exhibitions are followed through at this point. When the hanging, placement of artwork and lighting for each space is completed, the opening for the exhibition is held. Setting up is executed by the curatorial staff, and specific needs such as whether a mike, stage, podium, seating and/or lighting are all taken into consideration. Opening night is a grand occasion that presents the exhibition to the community at large.

Curatorial Trainee Averia Wright speaking at the beginning of “My Kid Could Paint That”.

Trainees take daily walkthroughs through the gallery to ensure pieces have not shifted, that the gallery is clean, the temperatures are comfortable and that the gallery is properly lit. Another exciting part of the curatorial trainee position is carrying patrons and visitors on tours of the exhibition. Leading the audience though the exhibition allows the tour guide to portray the message that the curator had in mind. The response from the viewers takes the tour to another level of appreciation and conversation about the artist and artwork.

As curatorial trainees, assisting other positions in the gallery such as public programming, research and gallery promotions allows for a smooth operation. The education officer arranges educational events and the curatorial team gives input on the organization and help to bring the event to fruition. The gallery is also reserved for private events and the trainees makes provisions for these events, whether opening up the gallery or, allowing guests to feel welcome. Also finding ways to promote membership and the gallery itself is constantly on trainee’s minds.

Curatorial trainees are perched into the world of the curator and are taught the complete functioning of the gallery, in hopes to further their role in the future.

Curatorial Trainee Nastassia Pratt hard at work preparing for an event.