Mom and daughter look at art on the wall together.

An Unusual Proposition – Artists Invited to Advise a Museum

Fifth in a new series featuring stories from Greater Boston arts organizations that received special funding to pursue an artistic risk.

The Arts are always about taking risks. But funding for risk-taking is often hard to come by. With new resources dedicated to artistic risk, seven organizations pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones. We asked Jill Medvedow, the Ellen Matilda Poss Director at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), to share their story.

Creating and presenting art is always about taking risks. The work we present at the ICA is frequently unknown and under-resourced, and often underappreciated. To advise and inspire us, and to help us achieve our mission of sharing the pleasures and provocations of the art of our time, we invited a group of artists, all of whom had exhibited their work at the ICA, to serve as an Artist Advisory Council.

These artists represent many different disciplines, and a variety of gender, racial, generational, and geographic backgrounds. The issues we discussed are complex and personal, and our conversations were, too. But artists are some of the best problem solvers in the world. They create ways that invite us, and sometimes jolt us, into looking at things it might be easier to look away from. Artists create openings for new perspectives, people, and ideas that may be outside the mainstream, but often turn out to be exactly what we need.

Artists are some of the best problem solvers in the world. They create ways that invite us, and sometimes jolt us, into looking at things it might be easier to look away from.

This project represented a different kind of risk for us. It was an opportunity to look at ourselves, and the experience we create for our artists and our audiences, through their eyes. It was an incredible gift and one that will endure at the ICA.

We invite you to share this story of artistic risk-taking, and to join the conversation using #ArtisticRisk.

About the Barr-Klarman Arts Capacity Building Initiative and this video series:

The Barr-Klarman Arts Capacity Building Initiative was a five-year initiative to strengthen the long term financial health of a group of Boston area arts organizations. Throughout the Initiative, the partners grappled with the question: capitalization to what end? What’s the desired change for the organization and for our communities? First, the cohort explored what organizational risks could look like, and the kinds of capital needed. And in the last two years, the partners asked what taking risks in the art and curation looked like, and what kinds of support are needed for risk-taking. A fund was set up as part of the Initiative, with the goal of supporting projects that took organizations out of the comfort zone of their usual practice, potentially against standard field practice, and with the potential to change their organizational way of working.

These commissioned videos document the journey of the seven projects that were funded. Each video centers on one organization and, through the eyes of its leaders, gives a glimpse into their journey of artistic risk-taking. We hope that these leaders and projects will engage you in a conversation that deepens understanding and builds support for this exciting kind of work.

Learn more from other stories of #ArtisticRisk

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Jill Medvedow

Guest Author Ellen Matilda Poss Director The Institute of Contemporary Art