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Only In Santa Cruz

Wed, Sep 25, 2019

Ashley Holmes

Ashley Holmes - Marketing & Brand Coordinator

Ask a Curator Day

Last week, Exhibitions Catalyst Whitney Ford-Terry and Archives & Collections Catalyst Marla Novo took to social media to answer your questions for the Twitter-famous #AskaCuratorDay. Thumbs at the ready, Marla and Whitney joined over 1,300 other institutions from all over the world for the annual social media takeover to answer your most pressing questions.

Stay in the loop: Follow the MAH to indulge your curiosity and stay in the loop on upcoming events, exhibitions, and staff takeovers.

Let’s dive in.

Q: What do you love about your job?

Marla Novo: Connecting with diverse members of our community. Hanging out with OG surfers for the Princes of Surf exhibit, then learning about the history of the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County by talking with local trailblazers for an upcoming exhibit. Also, I just like artifacts! Recently, a 19th-century hair wreath was donated from a local family and it now may be my favorite artifact (right now–it changes all the time). Every day is different and I LOVE it.

Whitney Ford-Terry: Every few months I get to work with new artists and collaborators to dive deep into a different topic or idea. One week it’s west coast printmaking and poetry, the next it’s tackling the history of mountain biking. It's always fresh and I never get bored.

Q: Have you ever broken anything important?

Marla Headshot 1

“No, and knock on wood (unless it’s an artifact, don't knock it, ha).”

Marla Novo

Q: How did you both get involved curating for the MAH?

Marla: I started curating exhibits in grad school---those were mostly art-based. Then I got really interested in connecting art, historical objects, and personal stories. When the MAH opened in 1993, I interned, then got a job a few years later.

Whitney: I met Nina Simon when I was in grad school at the University of Washington and really tapped into her ideas around the art of relevance when thinking about curating exhibits and events. I worked for years as a curator and arts organizer at universities and museums across the country developing experimental & interactive shows before making my way to Santa Cruz.

Q: Does the MAH work with local artists as well? In what ways?

Whitney Fun

“YES! The MAH works with local artists and collaborators for nearly every exhibition we organize...”

Whitney Ford-Terry

Whitney cont'd: This helps us put a local lens on a particular theme or introduce the work in a familiar way. We also organize community-sourced exhibitions that feature work from artists from all over the county. Join the MAH's email list to get updates on how you can participate in upcoming exhibitions.

What inspired you to be a curator and work in museums?

Marla: I wanted to work in a creative place that inspires others to not only be creative, but encourages us to exchange ideas, talk to each other, share our stories, and connect. Art and history are wonderful vehicles for this.

Whitney: "Art is what makes LIFE more interesting than ART." I always come back to this quote from Robert Filliou. As a lifelong learner, I wanted to work in a field where I am able to explore new ideas and work collaboratively with others to find ways to share the art and stories that impact our lives. Every day I get to use art as a tool for connecting people and ideas.

Q: What are the biggest items in the MAH collection?

Marla: Architectural fragments from the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Baseball pitching machines (because the inventor was from Santa Cruz!) We have some large sculptures in our outdoor sculpture garden. Personally I like tiny artifacts—easier to store. The tiniest artifact (like a porcelain shard excavated from a local Chinatown no longer here) tells a big, powerful story.

Q: What is opening in 2020 at the MAH?

Whitney: In 2020, the MAH will be presenting exhibitions that feature contemporary art and historical objects that explore topics ranging from Environmental Justice, LGBTQ+ history in Santa Cruz, to the creativity and innovation of the Mountain Biking community! And that's just to name a few...

Feeling Inspired?
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