Curating an art show

HMBHS art show

(Photo Credit:  Charles Russo)

I recently read “The Happiness of Pursuit” by Chris Guillebeau.  It focuses attention on how to identify and structure a personal quest.  What is a quest? According to Guillebeau, ” it is a journey toward something specific, with a number of challenges throughout. Most quests also require a series of logistical steps and some kind of personal growth,” but it is much more that just self-improvement.

Start with Why

Why curate an art show for my dad? My only experience was in my years as an art teacher in guiding high school students to curate their annual student art show.

When my dad taped his art work onto the walls of his room in 2011, I was intrigued by the way it changed his interactions with others, especially how he had a voice despite dementia taking away his ability to hold conversations.  His paintings were a point of departure in building relationships with his caregivers and visitors during a time in his life when dementia was limiting him in so many ways. In 2013, I decided that it would be fitting to frame his art and create a gallery space for him at his assisted living home. He died before I could frame one painting. All his paintings were stored back in a box.

Thanks to the ideas outlined in “The Happiness of Pursuit”, I have taken up the idea again, but instead of just framing and hanging art, I want to curate a show that highlights how art can be a healing force in dealing with tragic life events.  I want it to benefit dementia research and/or a group that helps people cope.

How do I start my quest?

Guillebeau sets out 5 criteria for a project to become a quest:

  1. A quest has a clear goal and a specific end point
    1. Curate and art show that has a theme relating to the healing nature of creative process and one that benefits dementia research
  2. A quest presents a clear challenge
    1. Figure out how to curate a great show in a beautiful space
    2. Face my self-doubts about my art talents and let me dad’s pursuit of painting beauty inspire me to create art again for the sake of creating
  3. A quest requires sacrifice of some sort
    1. Time
    2. Money
    3. The hard work that it takes to create a work of art.
  4. A quest is often driven by a calling or a sense of mission
    1. This idea has been in my head for 3 years and it needs to be realized
    2. Dementia is such a destructive force for indivuduals and their families; I want to do something to help
  5. A quest requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward a goal.
    1. Learn about curation
    2. Find a theme
    3. Find a space
    4. Chose an organization that will benefit
    5. Set a date
    6. Research
    7. Make some art
    8. Put it all together




I Collica

I. Collica to I, Collica.

My father, Ignatius Danial Collica, created over 100 watercolors prior to the onset of dementia in 2010, each one signed confidently,  I. Collica, in the bottom right hand corner.  

He rarely painted original works, prefering to copy any illustration, photo or painting that he found beautiful.  During his years of dementia he still tried to paint but it became increasingly difficult, so he hung his own art show on the white walls of his assisted-living space. His decision to take his work out of the storage box and publicly display them onto the walls was the moment when I. Collica, the copier of images, became I, Collica, am an artist.
His show aided him to communicate and socialize as he was losing his ability to speak and think coherently.  Nurses,  strangers or family members who entered into his “exhibition” space gasped in awe at his works  and addressed him as an artist. He could always remember a story related to a painted image. Not only did his exhibition bring him happiness and fame at Beachwood Manor Assited Living, it gave him an achor to his identity so that he would not totally lose himself as his mind became more and more confused.  As I reflect on this time in my dad’s life I imagine his omnipresent signature transformed into an artist’s statement:
 I, Collica, am not stored away,forgotten in a box.
I, Collica am still here. Look!”

I collica art show beechwood manor micaela me dad

(December 2011, a visit to the I. Collica gallery at Beechwood Manor)
Before my dad died in 2014, I wanted to curate a  public showing of his work for the residents of his home. Unfortunately, his health declined and I was never able to bring about that dream. After reading Chris Guillebeau’s  book, “The Happiness of Pursuit”, I renewed my desire to curate a show for the artist, I. Collica, my dad.
I am not sure yet  how I will do this or where it will lead me, but if anything, I look forward to 3 things:
  1. Understanding the power of art as a healing force in my family, as we dealt with so much loss.
  2. Reclaiming my creative life. I too am Collica!
  3. Helping dementia patients and caregivers along the way.
(Drawing of a  black and white snapshot that I drew in my journal while on a care visit to my dad in February 23, 2011. In the photo I was 2 years old. We were at a place called Black Lake, MI. I love the sense of joy shining from each of our faces. I focused a lot on at the textures and values in this image, giving each equal importance so that the emotion blends in with the other elements)