When I chose to be an art history major at Brown I thought I’d be a museum curator. I loved the idea of getting to pick and choose what was featured in the galleries. The thought of having the power to choose new and different creative voices, as well as to honor classics, sounded deeply satisfying.
Somewhere along my four-year journey at college, though, I realized that getting a job and working within an existing museum system probably wasn’t going to work for me. I found out that the art world has a lot of politics and that being a curator would mean a lot more than choosing which paintings got hung on the wall and in what order.
Here’s what dictionary.com has to say about what it means to curate:
cu·rate [v. kyoo-reyt]
to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation, as music or Web site content
(Full disclosure: I looked it up in my copy of The American Century Dictionary that I’ve had since high school and the definition was unsatisfactory so I had to head online.)
Even though I’ve never worked at a museum, nor have I ever applied for a job at one, I still became a curator.
There’s this virtual land called KateNorthrup.com and you and I hang out there together sometimes. From time to time we meet in the nearby lands of Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and sometimes, when we’re lucky, our meetings are in person instead of virtual (like yesterday when I was interviewed for a podcast live in my home — in person rocks).
And the beautiful thing about having a virtual kingdom is that I get to pick and choose who and what gets featured. I get to scan the vast array of who and what is out there and then talk about what I find interesting. I get to share the people who turn me on and make my heart go pitter-patter. I get to sift through the vast array of thoughts in my head and feelings in my heart and publish what feels the most important.
I get to curate.
It’s awesome. So much more awesome than what I imagined being a museum curator entailed.
Is there risk involved in being the chooser, the person who decides which ideas and voices to highlight?
Yeah. Big time. (See my post from the other day, about rumpling feathers, for more on this.)
Because there are people out there who don’t agree with the ideas that get published here.
Just like there are only so many walls in a gallery, there are only so many Glimpse TV episodes or blog posts. And featuring every perspective, inspiration, and person who’s doing work worth featuring is humanly impossible.
So, in putting our own stuff out in the world and in curating all the ideas and people and projects and news out there, we risk disappointing people. We risk offending them. We risk being misunderstood.
Or, perhaps I should even say that when we put our stuff out there and curate, we are guaranteed to disappoint, offend, and be misunderstood.
And the fear of those things is real. I feel it every time I press publish, pick up a microphone, or answer an interview question.
The tumultuous edge we walk when we’re afraid and we show up anyway is where all the best stuff happens. (Tweet it!)
It’s where art is made.
We are all artists. We are all curators. Your art will sometimes not be chosen, or curated, by others but the good news is that we live in a time when we can all be our own curators and choose ourselves.
You don’t have to wait for someone else to find your art breathtaking in order for it to be shared.
There will never be a time when it doesn’t feel risky to put your stuff out there. And there will never be a time when it doesn’t feel uncomfortable to make bold choices and curate like you mean it.
Just do it anyway. Because the world needs your voice, your choices, and your art.
If you have something to say (which I believe everyone does), then create a space to share.
Start a blog.
Record a podcast.
Post on Instagram.
Decorate a wall.
Grab a microphone.
Fly your freak flag. Choose what turns you on. Put your stuff out there.
The risks are real — just as real as the rewards.