What leads people into curating?
In many cases, it's something as simple as a lifelong affinity for the people and objects that make up the art world. Take Jason Bronner, collections curator at Lock Haven University's Sloan Fine Arts Gallery, who justified his decision to become a curator like this: "I have always enjoyed working with artists and with artworks."
Bronner grew up in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, an area with a rich offering of art museums and galleries. The city's flourishing art scene piqued Bronner's interest in visual art and drew him to a career in curating.
"I feel rather fortunate to have grown up there, since I lived within half an hour of The Amon Carter Museum, The Kimbell Art Museum and The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Plus, only 45 minutes away was the Dallas Museum of Art," Bronner said. "Those museums have superb collections and they also offer a diverse selection of works. Other than New York City, I am hard-pressed to think of a better place to live to see such a great collection of art so easily."
Bronner, who earned his bachelor's degree in studio art at Texas Christian University, got his curatorial start while still in college.
"I spent several years in my 20s working for the William Campbell Contemporary Art Gallery in Fort Worth, helping out with installation and preparation in the gallery."
After completing his undergraduate degree, Bronner earned a master's degree in fine arts in studio art with a concentration in painting from the University of Florida.
"My degree, like many studio degrees, focused on the creation of artwork," Bronner said. "It was not until I worked in the gallery that I had the opportunity to learn about curating, collecting and exhibiting from the institutional side."
As you might expect from someone with a BFA and MFA in painting, Bronner also is a practicing artist. His recent body of work, titled "Nightmare Series," focuses on canine forms, using them as a metaphor. Bronner said his experience as an artist has informed his work as a curator.
"Being an artist I think may help me to relate better to the artists," Bronner said. "It helps me to understand the processes of the artists and to be able to talk about them with visitors and artists. I have personal experience with most of the mediums that we have shown in the gallery. This insight also helps me in my selection process."
Bronner, who has been the Sloan Gallery's collections curator since 2008, is well-versed in all aspects of curating and gallery management.
"I assemble the visiting artist applications, coordinate selection of artists, schedule shows and visiting artist lectures, assist the artists with the installation of the shows, as well as arrange student interaction with the visiting artists," Bronner said.
As a university gallery, the Sloan Fine Arts Gallery focuses primarily on the educational interests of its students.
"It's a teaching gallery," Bronner said. "We strive to select works and set up shows that enhance our teaching and fulfill our mission towards our students."
Bronner, who is an associate professor in the Visual and Performing Arts Department, said he is committed to using the gallery as a teaching tool. When asked about his fundamental mission as a curator, Bronner summed it up in one word: "Education."
"I am a university professor first," Bronner said. "In other words, my primary responsibilities are in the classroom. I teach a wide range of subjects, including painting, drawing, electronic media, graphic design and digital photography. The gallery is an integral part of arts education at the university. There are a myriad of diverse mediums and techniques that artists use in making artwork. I think it is often hard to understand works and the techniques used by artists without getting to see the works in person. We bring students directly from the classroom into the gallery to review and study the artworks."
Under Bronner's direction, the Sloan Gallery also aims to educate students about curating and gallery operations. This has been a special mission for Bronner.
"Our goal is to educate the students in a very direct, hands-on way about how to run a gallery, including setting up exhibitions and working with the visiting artists," Bronner said. "I try to provide the students with the education in gallery and curatorial work that I did not receive in undergraduate school, but instead learned by working in a commercial gallery and in graduate school."
Although the Sloan Gallery is, as Bronner put it, "primarily student-centered," the gallery has made an effort to reach beyond its academic audience to the larger Lock Haven and central Pennsylvania community.
"Most of the visitors to the gallery are students, but we are continually striving to bring in visitors from the community, including the whole central Pennsylvania region through press releases and a mailing list."
For the local community and Lock Haven students alike, the Sloan Gallery has much to offer. The gallery showcases an array of artists - from local to international - and exhibits work in all mediums.
"On average we have five visiting artist shows, three exhibitions of student work, one faculty exhibition and one permanent collection show per year," Bronner said. "This year, we have artists coming from New York, Kansas and Maryland. We also periodically host international artists. Most recently, we have hosted artists from Chile and Italy."
The gallery's next exhibition will showcase the work of Joe Meiser, a sculptor who teaches at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, and whose art has been featured in these pages. Meiser's exhibition will be on display from Sept. 4 to 28. An opening reception and artist lecture will be held at 8 p.m. Sept. 4 in the Sloan Fine Arts Center, Lock Haven University.
The Sloan Gallery's schedule of upcoming exhibitions features a range of artistic mediums, including photography, painting, sculpture and digital art. Bronner said he and his colleagues do not favor any particular medium over another; they are simply out to select and exhibit the best art.
"We vote on selections for the gallery from the artists who choose to apply," Bronner said. "Art objects that are lighter (i.e. easier to ship) may be logistically easier for the artist to send and we may end up with more applications from photographers (works on paper) than sculptors (works made of stone, metal, etc.) for example. We strive to choose the best work regardless of the medium."
The Sloan Fine Arts Gallery is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information, visit www.lhup. edu/art/gallery.