VRA Affiliated Society Session at CAA's 103rd Annual Conference

CAA 103rd Annual Conference
Hilton New York – Sutton Parlor North, 2nd Floor
1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY
VRA Affiliated Society Session – Thursday, February 12, 2015
5:30-7:00 pm

– this (and all affiliate sessions) are free and open to the public –
From Creation to Classification to Consideration: How Technology is Changing the Role of Artist Archives

Session Abstract
For this session we invite four archivists working for individuals or as part of larger institutions to discuss their experiences creating and using artist archives. The role archivists traditionally played in managing and supporting efforts to establish an artist’s legacy is changing in response to new expectations of users to have interactive, accessible information. Strides in technology now allow for better access to resources, especially for living artists who are prolific. Managing a digital image archive also plays an integral role in establishing a comprehensive survey of an artist’s work. Keeping records of transient works and meeting the needs of the studio provides access to scholars and curators in the future. The speakers in this session will also explore the collaborative aspect of artist-as-creator and archivist-as-mediator and steward of the documentation to be used by both artists and art historians alike.

Missy Brown, Metadata Specialist, Pratt Institute (Moderator)

Establishing a Legacy: Managing an Artist’s Archive within a Trust and Estate Plan
Janine St. Germain, Consulting Archivist

Artist archives may be arranged and managed with an interest in supporting eventual estate plans tailored to the artist’s long-term legacy plan.  The collection may serve as a resource for new works, as well as support a collection’s future intellectual and financial value. Artists’ archives can be managed with an interest in a range of eventualities: their donation to a suitable repository, the creation of trusts for heirs of the artist, future collaboration with other collections or institutions, or eventual sale. All of these outcomes are maximized when the archive is considered within an established estate plan, preferably put into place during the artist’s lifetime, rather than as an afterthought following his or her death.  Drawing from examples of work with a variety of recent archives and estates, discussion will focus on how artist archives can manage and support efforts to establish an artist’s legacy.

Janine St. Germain is a consulting archivist in the NY metropolitan area.  She has managed the archival collections of fine artist Robert Kushner, theater artist Robert Wilson, and performing/visual artist Christopher Knowles.  She is currently working with the estate of earthworks artist Nancy Holt, as well as a variety of faculty and alumnae collections held at Vassar College’s Archives and Special Collections Library.

Artists in the Archives
Ivy Marvel, Manager of Special Collections, Brooklyn Public Library.

Jamel Shabazz is best known for his photographs of New York street life in the 1970s and 80s. Portraits of teens decked out in the finest new fashions – published in his books Back in the Days and A Time Before Crack – chronicle the birth of the hip-hop aesthetic in vivid color. Brooklyn Public Library started working with Shabazz in 2012, incorporating his photographs into its archive and engaging the public with his work and process through programming, online presentations and exhibitions. The Library’s archive of more than 250,000 photographs skews toward the first half of the 20th century; working with living photographers like Shabazz has allowed the Library to expand its coverage of Brooklyn into the latter half of the 21st century and up to the present day. Through this partnership with Shabazz, the library has developed a model to accession and make available the work of other living photographers.

Ivy K. Marvel is Manager of Special Collections at Brooklyn Public Library, overseeing the library’s local history archive, the Brooklyn Collection.  She earned a Master’s degree in Library Science at Pratt Institute in 2010 and has worked for the Brooklyn Public Library since 2007.

The Living Archive
Nicole Root, Archivist, Lynda Benglis Studio

In the fast-paced studio of a prolific living artist, archival issues often take a back seat to the pressing concerns of daily business. Still, a working archive is essential to a studio’s efficient operation and an important preliminary step in producing a resource for future scholars. In the Lynda Benglis studio, decades of different filing systems, inconsistent database entry and recent construction have become major obstacles to finding information quickly and preserving important documents. Furthermore, Benglis’s working process demands an organizational method different from traditional object files. Using the perspectives of an art historian and artist, this presentation will discuss the development of a comprehensive organizational system that is tailored to Benglis’s working process, the needs of the studio and future accessibility for researchers.

Nicole Root is the archivist for the Lynda Benglis studio and an art history instructor at Adelphi University. In addition to her art historical training at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, Root has worked in galleries, maintained the records of a large private collection of American art and served as an assistant to sculptor and performance artist, Maren Hassinger.

Street Art Graphics: A People’s Archive
Catherine Tedford, Gallery Director, St. Lawrence University

Although transient by design, street art stickers, flyers, and other paper-based ephemera capture the creative, cultural, and political pulse of time and place. With topics addressing environmental issues, economic crises, race, class, gender and sexuality, workers’ rights, Occupy movements, and presidential elections, these materials can be used for teaching and research in fields across the curriculum. St. Lawrence University’s digital archive of “Street Art Graphics” currently features over 2,200 such examples from around the world. The archive has been incorporated into course-related assignments and exhibitions at SLU and other alternative art spaces. During the past year, students, young alumni, and community members have collaborated on a new “People’s Archive” and investigative blog project that examines the ways ordinary citizens make use of public space to express themselves. The role of the archivist/activist as an agent for social justice and the notion of archival neutrality are also discussed.

Catherine Tedford received a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1983 and has served as the director of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University since 1989 (she loves her job). She has presented at academic conferences in England, Germany, Scotland, and the United States. Her writing about street art graphics can be found on her research blog Stickerkitty.

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