An Interview With a Curator: Ashlee Whitaker
As you wander into an art exhibit for the first, or second, or third time, do you ever wonder about all the steps it took to put an exhibition together? How does a curator decide which pieces to include? How long does it take to create an exhibition? What is the process of obtaining different pieces from different museums and collectors? We sat down with Ashlee Whitaker, Curator of Religious Art at the BYU Museum of Art, to answer all of these questions.
How long does it take to plan an exhibition?
Ashlee: Time frames for curating an exhibit vary, depending on the scope of the exhibition and availability of artworks, but conceptualization of new exhibits usually begins years before, ideally three to five years out or more. Here at BYU, we had the Sacred Gifts exhibition in 2013, the legwork for which started in 2001. That was 12 years of planning!
What are the steps in curating an exhibition?
Ashlee: There are many different steps and many different people who aid in developing exhibitions. A curator will come up with a concept, and then explore the concept by doing a lot of research. Exhibit ideas are fundamentally based on images—either art in our own collection or artwork that we have come across at other museums or in research. We see an image that stirs an idea – a certain artist, time period or theme – and then we start looking for more works of art.
How do you find artworks to include in an exhibit?