Reflections on Leadership Learning
2016 Graduates: Cilgy Abraham | Gabriella Shypula | Radhika Srivastava
Presented by Gabriella Shypula, IWL Leadership Scholar Graduate, 2016
Good afternoon, everyone. To begin, I want to wish my IWL sisters a heartfelt congratulations for the uniquely amazing things each of us have accomplished, individually and collectively, within the past two years of being a part of this program.
When was your last encounter with an artwork? Was it in a gallery, an art museum, maybe in your Instagram feed? You may not realize it, but a majority of our experiences in art contexts are curated. There is a person researching and organizing exhibitions in museums and galleries –– a person selecting the perfect photo to post to their Instagram. Why is it that we focus only on the art and rarely the person creating spaces for these works to be displayed within?
A curator’s role is multifaceted –– she is a collaborator and supporter. Last November, for my social action project titled, “Performing Digital-Disruption,” I researched, organized, and curated an art event and roundtable discussion at A.I.R. Gallery, the first all female artist-run gallery in the U.S. We examined topics of cyberfeminism, art, activism, and performativity. When approaching this project I was initially interested in the collaborative leadership role of the curator. Taking inspiration from what we learned in Professor Charlotte Bunch’s course –– I made sure to include the women artists I was working with, actively seeking their feedback on my project. However, in embracing my role as collaborator and supporter, I began to lose sight of my own goals for the project.
A few weeks after the night of my event, an online magazine published an article discussing the artists and only credited A.I.R. Gallery as the organizer. And just like that all of my hard work was erased –– my restless nights stressing over staying in my budget, the endless hours of research for 10 discussion questions that resulted in a 45 minute discussion and 30 minute Q&A, completely overlooked. Although admittedly I was disappointed, the article provided an opportunity for me to rethink my approach to leadership and how to better assert my voice as a leader. In this experience I discovered what it means to be a curator, a feminist curator:
it is about working to support diverse artistic voices and creating platforms for their work be seen and discussed –– it is also, even more importantly, about valuing and respecting my own voice –– recognizing that my research and critical engagement with artists is an important form of leadership.
Through my experiences in the Leadership Scholars Program, I have expanded my definition of a curator to include and insist upon my role and voice as a leader. Our unique voices, cultivated over the past two years, are what make our cohort so powerful. We take care in making sure each of our voices are heard and respected –– resulting in a beautiful, unified community. As I go forth from the Institute for Women’s Leadership, I will bring with me my enriched voice that my fellow cohort has helped me nurture and grow.
I cannot thank you enough for this gift.
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