Ariel Gentalen in front of a work by Lee Krasner at the Art Institute of Chicago.

When I tell strangers I’m studying art education, they often ask me what age group of children I want to work with, or what grade I plan on teaching. My answer is always a pivot to try and explain the complex ideologies that brought me to graduate school that range from interests in socially-engaged art, curating, and museum education, which are usually unassociated with any age group. Also, I find children terrifying.

Ultimately, I’m interested in audience engagement. This means my practice has a wide, indefinable range of possible manifestations. It could mean creating programing that activates art spaces or creating contextual connections between the static and the living or, one day, organizing exhibitions within these matrices of curating, education, and social practice. It’s a masochistic practice. As someone with severe social anxiety who is interested in social practice, I’m often put into situations where you have to participate in experimental activities and talk to strangers.

When it comes to working with communities, there are those that are inherent and those that are created out of experiences. The MFA Show process has been a chance for me to activate both the inherent community of SAIC graduate students, and construct a new level of engagement previously untapped. Smaller communities among the curatorial assistants and between my teammates have grown as well, which give rise to intellectual networks across disciplines that previously wouldn’t have been as rich.

It has been wonderful to visit studios and immerse myself in the making side of SAIC. Being a graduate curatorial assistant has given me the platform to continue toeing the intersections of practices. Disrupting the “norm” of what a curator or educator has to be remains crucial as institutions continue to grow into outreaching learning and community organizing sites. If being a curator is about caring for work and for artists, than being an educator is about caring for audiences and their ability to believe in their agency to enjoy art, by whatever means suits them best. I thankfully I have enough care in me to go around.