Artists play a key role in shaping communities and our choices about where we choose to live, work, play and stay. But do we fully appreciate the role of curators, the designers working behind the scenes to display works of art in local museums? Here is the second of five stories about local curators who demonstrate remarkable thinking, energy and vision in the way we see and react to what we see.
While some people balk at the younger generations these days, sometimes it takes fresh, young eyes and perspective to really make a change. This is exactly what Amanda Poss is doing at Hillsborough Community College, starting with reinventing what galleries can be.
“I’ve always envisioned working in a gallery like this wonderful laboratory for experimentation,” says Amanda Poss, director and project manager of visual art galleries at HCC.
Since earning her MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History from USF, Poss has carefully refined her approach to curatorial work by working part-time at Blake High School and helping as an assistant to gallery at the Scarfone / Hartley Gallery at the University of Tampa before being hired as Gallery Director and Curator at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus.
Although she inherited an exhibition schedule, she and her team of gallery assistants played with the frequency of exhibitions and were even able to organize pop-ups and other events as interim projects for gain more support from local artistic communities due to its links with USF and young emerging artists in the region.
“For me, [my curation style] is very artist oriented. When we approach artists to work together for exhibitions, we start from the point of view of collaboration and dialogue. We allow artists to bring in new work and experiment, which is exciting. We work very directly with the artists, let them speak and amplify that with our curatorial approach ”, explains Poss.
In recent years, his perspective has shifted to focus on social issues by taking a unique approach to community exhibitions that adapt and are flexible to the needs of the community, which are constantly changing.
“At the Dale Mabry campus, one of the biggest challenges is that it was not the ‘arts campus’. Students are the first people we serve, and most of them weren’t taking an art class and might not initially understand why the arts can play a role in their future success, ”says Poss. “Watching artists who had an inclusive range of viewpoints naturally led to addressing social issues and activism. Because our students include underserved populations, they are really passionate about these issues, so our exhibits really tend in that direction. “
Students, faculty, and staff had long expressed a strong desire for public art, but it never materialized. One of the projects Poss is most proud to have brought to HCC is the [email protected] initiative, which is the college’s public art program that began in 2018. While murals are certainly a part of this program, the most recently completed NEST project takes art beyond formal gallery spaces, creating vital opportunities for community outreach, connections and conversations.
NEST (which stands for Food, Education and Social Terraces) is not only a green space developed by the community with artist Tory Tepp leading the project, but it targeted insecurity, sustainability and inclusion, which are all major problems within BIPOC communities.
“We try to be one of those institutions that practice radical inclusiveness. Our student body is so diverse, and I think one of the responsibilities I have is that the art we bring – whether through exhibitions, the permanent collection, or public art – reflects the diversity of our students or caring about the community it serves. When we raised the voice of the BIPOC and LGBTQ + communities, every instance is so appreciated by the community. If one of the values of the college is diversity, we must demonstrate it whenever possible. I look forward to when it’s not uncommon to see this, ”says Poss.
Poss credits much of his success to his gallery team, including Emiliano Settecasi, Michael Murphy, and Alyssa Miller, but Dustin Lemke believes that is part of Poss’s power as an artistic leader.
“One of the great things that makes Poss so successful is that she is able to connect people better than anyone I know. She understands the art, but also understands people. She created these member committees. faculty, administration and people in the community, “said Lemke, dean of associate arts programs at HCC Dale Mabry campus.” It’s not just because she’s a woman, but because she’s brilliant. When things seem like, “No one’s going to let us do this,” she just keeps pushing forward until people think it’s something that’s possible. “
Now that she oversees the galleries for the college as a whole, Poss’s short-term goals are to bring the HCC Dale Mabry and Ybor City campuses together in a cohesive manner, with a unified vision for moving forward. Before Poss, the permanent collections on each campus were separate, but now they are part of a collection of over 120 pieces in total. When it comes to long term goals, Poss plans to create a new strategic plan, taking a boldly visionary approach to expand and better serve the community.
“The gallery before Amanda was confined by its walls. It was in a very specific location, but she helped blow up those walls and brought many other art projects to campus. Now the gallery is the whole campus, ”says Lemke. “It helps us make ourselves look and see, by changing the way we see and interact with works of art by bringing art to where people are.”
To find out more about art programs, from exhibitions to public art, visit HCC Gallery 221 or follow Gallery 221 on Facebook.
To learn more about the other curators in this series, follow these links: