This past September, Glenbow had the pleasure of announcing the appointment of Sarah Todd as our new Art Curator. Prior to this position, Sarah, who has a wealth of curatorial experience across Canada, had served as Glenbow’s Adult Programming Coordinator, introducing such successful events as our Art Baby Tours and the Salon Series. She also curated several exhibitions, including: First Person: Contemporary Indigenous Portraiture; Karilynn Ming Ho: For the Left Alone; Adad Hannah: The Raft of the Medusa (Saint Louis); and, most recently, The Artist’s Mirror: Self Portraits.
Now that she’s had a couple of months to settle into her new official role, we thought we’d catch up with her and ask a few pertinent questions.
What is a curator exactly – what do they do?
Now it’s this weird thing where everybody’s a curator – you can curate someone’s closet. So it’s a word that’s kind of been redistributed in a way. I was thinking of curating from the root word of curator, which is “to care.” So, that’s what informs my practice, it’s about caring for objects, it’s about caring for ideas, and it goes back to the historical role of a curator, which was more about dealing with collections and caring for the objects within it. In terms of what I do, I do research, make exhibitions, and work on the collection and acquisitions. I see the curator as a kind of intermediary between the public, the institution and the artist.
By the way, I have no problem with people thinking of themselves as curators. When I first started curating, one of my mom’s friends thought I was an undertaker. So I’m happy that people know what that word means and little bit more now.
What excites you about Glenbow?
It’s so unique in Canada. The fact that we have all of these different collection areas – Art, Indigenous Studies, Cultural History, and Military History – that sit alongside one another and can inform one another, is pretty exciting.
Do you have plans for integrating Glenbow’s various collections?
We see that happening already internally at Glenbow. For instance, guest curator Mary-Beth Laviolette’s exhibition, Eye of the Needle, was such a great example of “capital A” art mixed with craft mixed with cultural history objects. I think that was a really seamless integration of all of these types of things informing each other. There’s a lot of fluidity between what is art and what is an artifact – sometimes it’s based on context, sometimes it’s based on the artist’s intention… the lines are so blurry. I think people are less concerned about what is and isn’t art. To me, that isn’t an important conversation; the important conversation is about what these things are getting at – the ideas behind them. So I think there’s so much potential for integrating all of the collections into exhibitions.
What do you think Glenbow’s role in the Calgary arts ecosystem is?
Glenbow, of course, has an incredible collection – the largest art collection in Western Canada. That’s a pretty incredible thing to have here in Calgary. One big role that we have that we don’t talk about a lot is that we’re a huge hub for research. That’s sort of a hidden function that we play. But, in terms of the art ecosystem, given the kind of team that we have and the objects that we have, and the reach that we have, we can do really exciting exhibitions and have programs that can engage the public in all kinds of different ways. I think of Glenbow as a place that should have many different footholds for many different people for every exhibition that we do.
Next up from Sarah Todd
On Location: Artists Explore A Sense of Place – opening February 3, 2019