Meet Chair Leigh Markopoulos
On Curating Now
Founded in 2003 in recognition of the growing importance of the curatorial role in the field of culture, the Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice aims to impart an understanding and appreciation of this position. We pursue the cutting edge of contemporary exhibition practice, maintaining a level of flexibility that allows us to respond critically to current developments in the field, and that reflects the curator’s ability to improvise.
It has been important to me over the years to work in a variety of capacities in the art world, to write and curate but also to collaborate with curators as an exhibition organizer, dealer, and even editor. I am happy that our curriculum presents curating as a multivalent pursuit encompassing many skills and much knowledge, quite a lot of it purely practical.
In striving to offer aspiring curators a framework for research and investigation we introduce them to the history of the discipline and to its most important and interesting contemporary practitioners internationally, and we guide them through various strands of intellectual and artistic inquiry—from the legacy of Harald Szeeman to developments in new media and time-based art. In tandem with studying the theory and criticism of modern visual arts we expose students to practical exercises and assignments, through our partnership with the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Los Angeles, for example, which are based outside of the classroom.
Our location in San Francisco connects us to a tradition of artistic innovation at the same time as it facilitates exchanges with Asia and Latin America. These advantages are manifested in our emphasis on artist-led and other experimental initiatives, as well as in our diverse and international student body and roster of visiting artists and curators.
On Collaborative Practice
Over the past nine years we have successfully built networks and partnerships that enrich both the curriculum and our students’ postgraduate opportunities. This year, for example, sees the appointment of the first Kadist Curatorial Fellow, a research position made possible through our collaboration with the Kadist Foundation and the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. The range of graduate programs at CCA, and our physical proximity to the graduate fine arts studios, offer many opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange. We also privilege collective and collaborative forms of practice in the classroom, and in the structure of the thesis exhibition.
Through our faculty we have close relationships with institutions from SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to Berkeley Art Museum. These affiliations are complemented by multi-year commitments from international faculty through whom we extend our access to events and developments throughout the field. It is our intention to collaborate with other curatorial programs as well, and we have to date completed faculty exchanges with the MA in Visual Arts Practices at the Institute of Art Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland and the MA in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art in London.
On Tomorrow’s Curators
It is our goal that students will emerge from the program with a balance of theoretical knowledge and practical experience, and a rigorously critical approach toward writing and thinking about art. To date these skills have facilitated a range of career paths in the curatorial field. Graduates have gone on to pursue curatorial projects nationally and internationally, whether independently or in museums and galleries, and they are also well represented in public art agencies, commercial galleries and art publishing.
Alumni have established their own galleries and nonprofits in San Francisco, Vancouver, and Marfa, Texas; curated exhibitions in a range of venues from the Rooseum, Malmo, Sweden to Artists Space, New York, and are writing for such publications as Frieze and Artforum. Not least they have been awarded curatorial residencies in Banff, Canada, and Turin, Italy, and curatorial fellowships at the Walker Art Center and the MCA, Chicago. Their diverse experiences feed back into the program, and so we too continue to grow and become more tightly linked to the field and its future.