UK Art History Alumnae New Directors for Institute 193
View of Kevin Cole's All Tied Up In Politics at Institute 193 (1B), 2019.
Institute 193 is under new direction. Emma Friedman-Buchanan and Liz Glass, both UK grads, are the newest directors of Institute 193 New York City and Lexington, respectively.
Liz Glass received her B.A. in Art History and Visual Studies from UK in 2016 and her M.A. in Museum Studies from Newcastle University one year later. In 2015 she attended the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s selective Museum Seminar Program. In 2017 while working on her M.A., she served at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Her dissertation explored how to develop a new cataloging system for a collection they were acquiring, working primarily with glass negatives. After completing her degree, she landed a job as a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Emma Friedman-Buchanan transferred to UK from Mount Holyoke College and received her B.A. in Art History and Arts Administration, with a Certificate in Film Studies, in 2018. She interned at Institute 193 Lexington and guest-curated an exhibition of works by San Francisco-based artist Melissa Carter at the Institute. Upon graduation, she landed a curatorial internship at the Museum of Modern Art in 2019. Through her network she began working part-time as a gallery attendant for the New York location before coming on as the director this year.
Both UK alumnae stepped into their new positions in February, a month before the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. To say their first month on the job has been a challenge would be an understatement. We caught up with Liz and Emma while they have been staying #healthyathome in Lexington.
What experiences (if any) from either your time at UK or your time after graduating, prepared you for your new position as Gallery Director?
Emma - The internship at MoMA was a great experience and opportunity for me. For anybody who’s interested in doing a curatorial track, I recommend they focus on Art History. Having the heavy research base was super helpful in understanding the work that will eventually be done in a curatorial role. Through the Arts Admin program, we got a great understanding of non-profits – in terms of understanding how it all works and getting a sense of your place within that organization. I took Miriam Kienle's class, Intro to Visual Studies in the Art History Department, and that was a huge turning point– it made me realize how broad visual culture and contemporary art is. I realized I could focus on more than just medieval church plans. After taking her class, I decided to major in Art History. Through the lens of Art History, I was able to gain a better perspective of contemporary art culture.
Liz - I got my degree in Museum Studies specifically to tailor that to be a Collections Manager. Collections Managers receive art before it is placed into a collection – they deal with physical objects and organize art for the curator. However, I never planned on being in a curatorial role. My strengths are in installation and art handling. The physical aspects of the job are where I’m comfortable – there’s a very steep learning curve for everything else. What I did gain from my education was all about taking care of the art, knowing how to store it. In a curatorial position I write a lot about the art and having written a huge dissertation, writing is familiar – knowing how to write about art is something that my education prepared me for.
Where are you drawing inspiration, in terms of artists and other galleries, for your work?
Emma - I would love to work with Talena Sanders [UK alumna, B.F.A. '07]. She’s an experimental filmmaker who’s now on faculty at Sonoma State in California. She's awesome and I recently connected with her in NYC. In terms of other galleries, Microscope Gallery in NYC works with time-based media, performance, film, and video. I enjoy seeing how they program and curate exhibitions, and that will probably inform my approach on a smaller scale. I’d like to incorporate more experimental film into the roster, and to emphasize women artists and artists of color. That was a lot of my art history research as an undergrad, so bringing that perspective in as a continuation of our exploration of contemporary art is something I’d like to see.
Liz, you relocated from LA to Lexington. What made you come back and what was that transition like for you as an arts administrator?
Liz - I lived in LA for exactly one year. I moved out there in November 2018 and moved back in November 2019. I made the decision to move back before I even knew what was happening in Lexington – they [The Getty] offered me another year, but I didn’t see myself living in L.A. At a large organization with so many other departments, you tend to get lost in the shuffle and I knew I wanted to work with a smaller organization in order to have a hand in more than one aspect of the work. Now, I get to do literally everything as director at 193. You have no other choice than to be involved with everything – which is scary and interesting at the same time!
How are you coping with the current COVID-19 situation?
Liz - I’m very grateful that I have job right now. A lot of my musician and artist friends don't. It feels crazy, and I’m also just trying to roll with the punches. You take for granted the community you’re a part of, especially when you don’t have access to it.
Emma - It’s feels very uncertain right now, and a bit like I'm at sea in some ways. It’s tough being away from the space, I just started feeling connected to it so now we’re finding ways to bring shows to people in a virtual way. Having Phillip’s [Institute 193 founder, Phillip March Jones'] reassurance has been wonderful. Having founded the organization 10 years ago, his support in all of this has been really helpful.
What impact has it had on the organization?
Liz - When I originally started, I knew that I planned on continuing some of Paul’s [former Director, Paul Brown] programming. But going forward, especially now, everyone has to rethink what they’re doing. I’ve only been on the job for a month and I’m still trying to figure out how it would work under normal circumstances, much less under these new circumstances. We were considering suspending programming but decided that we need to keep it [Institute 193] going. A lot of other organizations are having problems – bigger museums have had to close completely. Fortunately, we are in a pretty good spot to deal with it. We’re going to start doing virtual exhibitions and on the days we would normally be open, we’ll leave the lights on at night so that while practicing some outdoor social distancing, people can see the work through the large window that faces Limestone.
Emma - I think everyone is grappling with how to move forward right now. People who are in mid-sized organizations might feel kind of afloat especially when large institutions can take a lion’s share of funding, they may not have the community support in the same way 193 does. There have been mutual aid networks between non-profits for a while and we see that developing more on a community level that will help ensure the livelihood of organizations like 193. Staying engaged is essential, especially for arts organizations, there are groups that are supporting artists and supporting diverse populations. Knowing how much grassroots support there has been in terms of our recurring donor base and our network of community support, not only in NYC, but in Lexington and Atlanta, has very reassuring. Institute 193 has a publishing wing that’s been central to our mission from the beginning and we're publishing a comic book version of the works on view from the exhibition that was recently up in NYC. It’s a great way for people to see the work and to learn about the artists while also incorporating virtual ways to see the show. There will be a physical print edition and then we might do an online viewing of the works. We’re still exploring our options.
How are you staying creative?
Emma - I think it’s a really important time to critically reflect on what’s going on. For me, I like having time to recharge and to enjoy art, just to watch experimental films or read books–it's a way to kind of reset. I’ve been reading Orientalism by Edward Said and watched some of Talena Sanders’ films and she recommended Turkish filmmaker Nazli Dinçel’s works.
Liz - We have an exhibition opening April 16th. I’ll install everything like I normally would then we’ll start making videos. I’d like to start doing more interviews with artists, some readings online. We’re working it out still - but our plan is that you’d have the same experience of being in the gallery as much as possible at home. Being able to look at a virtual exhibition, we know that people will see the value in that. What’s so special now is that everybody must re-adjust, knowing what they know and then having to rethink what’s going on. In the end, we still need to remind people how important it is to have art in their lives. We can’t just shut down – there needs to be an emotional outlet. They say the arts nurture our creative headspace, so we have to make sure that organizations are allowed to continue doing what they're doing.
To learn more, visit Institute 193.