Every year the CAC looks forward to the MFA show—an exhibition featuring recent grads of the University of Cincinnati and Miami University. As Installations Director at the CAC, the curatorial team and myself have the privilege of working closely with these artists to prepare their work for the exhibition. Unfortunately, due to the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic, the CAC had to make the difficult decision to temporarily close and forgo the exhibition. We were able to meet the artists and see their artwork in the months leading up to the anticipated exhibition and are saddened that they were ultimately unable to present their work at the CAC this year.
The MFA show provides these emerging artists with a real-world look into the installation process at a major midwestern contemporary arts institution. The project begins several months out when the CAC Curatorial Department is invited to have studio visits with students at the University of Cincinnati and Miami University. Here we typically provide feedback, as well as discuss installation ideas and methods. Artists inherently carry a creative arsenal at the ready, my team prides itself in offering up and coming artists new technical options for installing their work. This can range from the type of screw to use to which fabricator in town can produce the perfect piece of hardware needed to successfully safeguard the artwork. I believe, while it is rarely visible if done well, the installation method has the potential to propel a great artwork or installation to the next level.
To create a cohesive exhibition, the curatorial team works closely with university faculty, the artist and the CAC Curator to organize the gallery space in a way that best suits all the artists involved. The MFA artists are immediately exposed to the challenges of working within Zaha Hadid’s architecture. Over the years this challenge has provided some artists with the opportunity to install their work in a way they wouldn’t be able to in a more “traditional” gallery space. This experience gives them the resources to think more critically about future projects.
The months between studio visits and the installation, the students have direct access to the CAC curatorial team. During this time, we typically work with them in the gallery, providing dimensions for the space, and help with equipment needs. Once the students have decided on their individual installation technique, they wrap and transport their artwork to the CAC. This is an exciting time, and as the artwork begins to roll in on trucks, car hoods, trailers, or any means necessary, the anticipation is palpable.
The MFA exhibition is an important part of the CAC’s program and fulfills our mandate to serve local artists. Even though the 2020 edition was not possible at the CAC, I look forward to engaging with Cincinnati’s diverse artist community in the future.
Installations Director, Contemporary Arts Center