Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Curators I: Jessica Hunter Larsen

[A longer version of the profile that ran in the Gazette on March 18]

Not too many years ago, Colorado College was insular enough that a new curator wouldn’t have been news in the community.

Jessica Hunter Larsen is changing that.

She is a Boulder native who moved to San Francisco after getting an art history degree at Colorado College.

“I was going to take the art world by storm,” she said. “It took about a year for the naive sheen to wear off. The gallery world is more about sales and marketing than about connecting with the work.”

She subsequently spent a decade at Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art in Montana, where her duties consisted of basically everything.

“I loved it,” she said. “It was a small, really dynamic organization." But the lure of her alma mater was too much to resist.

The byword of Larsen’s approach is “interdisciplinary.” She’s always looking to connect different media, whether at Colorado College, at the college’s I.D.E.A. Space, or with local artists and organizations.

“There are a lot of collaborative opportunities in town,” she said. “That’s the way to build audiences.”

Like Christopher Lynn at the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art, Larsen wants to make contemporary art more approachable.

“I’m interested in pulling art out of the gallery and connecting it to daily life,” she said.

One way is simply to put it in people’s ways. Hunter Larsen has overseen the placement of guerilla art on the college campus and is looking forward to displaying an installation piece to be created by Julia Becker — and collaborators, of course — from March 26 to 30.

“She creates spiritually invested places within utilitarian environments,” Larsen said. “It’s insanely beautiful work.”

Hunter Larsen doesn’t downplay art history, but she’s most interested in what’s being created today.

“People and cultures make art about what they care about,” she said. “These are the stories we tell ourselves.”

In searching for today’s stories, Hunter Larsen is casting as broad a net as possible. She's already programming for the 2009/10 academic year — include a Tekcno Powwow, mixing American Indian culture with rap, hip-hop and rave; a performance by renowned artist/writer Coco Fusco in which Fusco will play the role of an interrogator in the War on Terror; and an exhibit of Vickie Meguire’s exquisite paper kimonos.

“There’s no way to assess what will have legs 10 years from now,” she said.


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