Con Edison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter, Issue No. 50

Con Edison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter, Issue No. 50

Special Report: From Guatemala to New York, Straight to Pangea

Tania Molina de Castellanos, intern in NYFA Curatorial and Fellowships discusses with IAP her experience coming from Guatemala City to New York City begining September 2013.

I met the nice people from NYFA in March 2013 when they visited Guatemala for an intensive three-day boot camp: “The Artist as an Entrepreneur.” I had recently graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design from Universidad del Istmo, Guatemala, and was looking for the way to apply my newfound passion for art history and design in my career. Participating in the boot camp opened my mind to the range of organizations and career paths available in the arts, and encouraged me to pursue an internship at NYFA.

Upon my arrival at NYFA, I was warmly welcomed to the Fellowships and Curatorial Program’s team. My first assignment was to work on the exhibition Pangea, featuring work by artists participating in NYFA’s Immigrant Artists Mentoring Program (IAP). Not really knowing what I was heading into – and to tell you the truth, not really understanding what Pangea meant – I began assisting in different administrative tasks for the show. I learned that there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work involved in mounting an exhibition. Pangea was particularly complicated due to the amount participating (46 to be exact).

One of my tasks, required me to find the bios, artist’s statements and CV’s for the show’s participants. It gave me the opportunity to consider the artists’ professional trajectory and observe their artistic language. It also helped me to understand the meaning of the show’s title and how accurate it is in relation to not only the works featured but also the artists represented. Pangea is the name given to the supercontinent that existed 300 million years ago before it began to break apart and drift to the location and formations that our seven continents exist in today. The show represents an idea that regardless of the fact that we all live in a world divided by boundaries, outlined by country limits, citizenship and other dividing factors, we are all humans and can be united by our common interests such as art. It doesn’t matter where you are from, where you are, or your native tongue, we can all communicate through an artistic language.

A common trait I observed in all IAP artists, and also while participating in the boot camp in Guatemala, is that all of the participants desired the same thing – communication through creative self-expression. It doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t understand your language or culture; through art you can make others feel. Whether that feeling is good or bad, it can be the basis for forming a bond.

I am grateful to have been a part of this project. I gained a greater appreciation and respect for contemporary art as well as some perspective as to how small the world really is through the eyes of art. It has also helped me realize that curatorial work is not easy! There’s a lot of hard preparatory work that needs to be done and a lot of details that need to be taken care of. At the end of the day, it’s the artwork that steals the show, but to rephrase a popular saying, “behind every great exhibition, there’s a great curatorial team!”

Pangea, featuring artists from the 2013 Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program, is on view at NYFA’s exhibition space. The gallery is open Monday-Friday, 9:30am – 5:30pm and located at 20 Jay St, #740, Brooklyn, NY 11201. The exhibition concludes with a special event featuring literary and performing artists on Friday, January 17, 2013, 6:00 – 9:00pm. 

Image: Tania Molina de Castellanos in front of Pangea, installation view.
Amy Aronoff
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