The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is turning to local artists to help develop innovative ways to engage patrons. The Fort Worth museum is launching Carter Community Artists, a program designed to work with and support local artists with the goal of connecting North Texans with the museum’s collection and regional artists.
During the year-long program, the selected artists will be integral in creating programming for adult and student audiences by assisting in the development of after school, home school and summer programs; teacher workshops; and recording sessions for the museum’s distance learning program. The four participating artists for the inaugural year of Carter Community Artists are Christopher Blay, Lauren Cross, Diane Durant and Arnoldo Hurtado.
Jessica Fuentes, the museum’s Manager of School and Community Outreach, answers questions about the new program.
NBCDFW: Why start this program now? How did the idea for this program develop?
JESSICA FUENTES: The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is in a time of growth and renewal. When Amanda Blake, Director of Education and Library Services, came onboard in January 2018, one of her focuses was to reimagine how the museum engages with our local community. The idea of creating a strong community engagement model at the museum began with evaluating current practices and then restructuring the education team to include a new emphasis on outreach, which is part of my current position, Manager of School and Community Outreach.
One of our big goals is to shift thinking towards creating sustainable community programs and partnerships. It has been common place for institutions to sometimes treat community outreach as event-based or “one-offs,” but we are interested in building relationships and that takes time. So, in many of our new community initiatives we are looking at how we can devote more time engaging with the community where they are located, continually throughout the year. This idea is paramount to our work with local artists through Carter Community Artists.
This initiative was born out of the desire to not only work closely with local artists for our museum programming, but to also help foster the relationships with and between the artists. By committing a year to each other, the museum and the artist are able to help set the foundation for creating longstanding partnerships resulting in a variety of opportunities for new and loyal audiences.
NBCDFW: How were these artists selected?
JF: For the pilot year of this program, Amanda and I opted to select artists we felt embodied the spirit and goals of this initiative, rather than employ an application process which will be put into place for subsequent years. First, it was important to choose artists who are living and/or working in Fort Worth, as one of the goals of Carter Community Artists initiative is to support our local community. Then, we looked at artists working in different media and engaging with various communities across the Metroplex. With our selection in mind, we approached a cross-departmental team at the museum to provide thoughts and feedback.
Next year, artist selection will be application-based, providing an opportunity for all interested local artists to be considered for this program. Applications will be reviewed by a cross-departmental team and announcements will be made in August. Look for the application posting in May for the next round of Carter Community Artists.
NBCDFW: When evaluating these artists, what were you looking for in their portfolios and resumes?
JF: When considering artists for this pilot year, we looked for artists deeply rooted in community work and social issues, as well as finding a group of artists that complimented one another in terms of process, practice, and philosophy.
For example, Lauren Cross holds a PhD in Multicultural Women's and Gender Studies; Diane Durant is active in a variety of organizations including, membership of the Leadership Team for the Society of Photographic Education’s LGBTQ Caucus; Christopher Blay has a long history of public art projects connecting to historically black neighborhoods; and Arnoldo Hurtado helps lead Comunidad 27, a neighborhood group in the North Side of Fort Worth focused on reviving and preserving their community.
We also looked at their individual practices, as we wanted to bring in a group of artists working in diverse media to incorporate various skill sets as we consider opportunities for engaging with the community. For example, though Lauren, Christopher, and Diane all have experience in photography, Diane incorporates narratives and text in her work, Lauren works with mixed-media and installation and has a background in video, whereas Christopher creates works on paper, installation, and photographic series.
All of the artists have experimented with scale in their work, for example Arnoldo is a painter who has experience creating both small-scale personal works of art and large-scale communal murals.
NBCDFW: What are you most excited about this specific class of artists?
JF: Thinking about this class of artists, I’m most excited about the new perspectives they will bring to the education department and the museum in general. Our museum is very collaborative - we know that the more opinions and voices included, the better the outcome will be, not only for the museum’s future as an innovator in Fort Worth, but to the relevancy that art and the creative experience holds in the lives of our community.
These artists will help to create and deliver content bringing unique experiences, knowledge, and perspectives to influence the way we see and teach American art and creativity at the Amon Carter and the way our visitors are able to experience the collection and programs we offer.
NBCDFW: These artists will be working with students a lot. Why is it important for students to directly work with local artists?
JF: We have numerous opportunities for collaboration with the museum education staff and the artists in the suite of programs we offer for school-aged children. To create strong community ties, we are beginning with one of our largest audiences – students – and meeting them where they spend time outside of the classrooms, in community centers and after school programs.
The Amon Carter has strong partnerships with local school districts and is currently piloting after school and summer programs—students make up a large portion of our visitors with us welcoming more than 20,000 every year, so it is only natural that these artists will be working with that population.
It is imperative for students to have an opportunity to work directly with practicing artists, to not only create an awareness that art is everywhere - all over our city, and not just in places like New York, Paris, and London, but to illustrate potential career paths in the field of art that students may not otherwise be exposed.
When I was growing up and attending Fort Worth ISD schools, I always thought I wanted to be an engineer because I was good at math and science, and because my dad was an engineer. I didn’t go to an art museum until I was a junior in high school, and for me, it was an experience with artists in museums that showed me there were other paths that I had never considered.
While the artists’ work with students is critical, it is important to note that the Carter Community Artists will have the opportunity to work with adult audiences as well as to create in-gallery experiences designed for visitors of all ages.
NBCDFW: How do you think this program, working with these artists will make the Amon Carter a better museum?
JF: The Amon Carter Museum is an amazing resource—we have masterworks of American art, a library with one of the country’s largest research collections focused on American art, engaging programming for audiences of all ages, and admission to the collection is always free. Working with these artists will enrich the museum’s programs with new perspectives and ideas and will be a first step in building strong relationships between the museum, local artists, and the community.
Follow #CarterCommunityArtists on social media to see what creativity is happening!