Solving problems within tight boundaries is my favorite form of creativity—as opposed to sky's-the-limit carte blanche. Co-curating AB25 Collective Memories on a volunteer basis with Mark Eanes and Hedi Desuyo was an adventure in tight boundaries of time, space, and budget. At first, our mission was to assemble an exhibit recognizing artists who have contributed to the gallery in the last quarter century, while reinforcing 25 years of thanks to the curators, board members, patrons, sponsors, members and volunteers who have contributed their time and talents to Arts Benicia.
Before long, we humbly realized that without 25 months and 25 galleries, this inclusionary concept was a glorious pipe dream. But maybe there was something we could offer the Arts Benicia community as a whole; shared and communally celebrated. The concept of "Collective Memories" was born, an exhibit winding its way back in time. With a deep breath, we jumped feet first into the rich history of Arts Benicia’s archives and swam around to find some of the most distinct exhibits, often juried to follow a specific theme, to invoke the strongest memories. From there, AB25 Collective Memories emerged piece-by-piece and steadily designed itself.
We poured over exhibition binders and Googled artists for hints to their current location. To help on this treasure hunt, we relied on our combined 50 years at Arts Benicia—our familiarity with exhibits and artists was invaluable in finding, selecting and arranging the work so that each wall could resonate harmoniously while staying true to the chronology. Working under top-notch Executive Director Kathryn Weller Renfrow opened my eyes to the sublime magic of curation. Arts Benicia has provided CCA professor Mark Eanes opportunities to curate impressive exhibits, as well as providing the community access to his inspirational teaching style. We relied heavily on photographer Hedi Desuyo, whose subjects range from delicate botanicals to ancient temples in distant jungles. Hedi has the longest history, clocking innumerable volunteer hours assisting with installations and documenting exhibits.
Often, in a themed exhibit, local artists are selected as "anchors" and regional artists are invited to round out the theme. Our homework was to reach out with outlandish requests: "that wonderful piece from 1998, do you still have access to it?" In many cases, the answer was yes. What emerged was a spectacular collection of over 100 pieces of work celebrating over 40 exhibits dating back to 1993. Arts Benicia held their first Board meeting in 1987 and coordinated cultural events around town before gaining a gallery space and an exhibition calendar designed to stimulate, educate, and nurture cultural life through the visual arts. The new gallery played a critical role as a hub of the burgeoning artist community, adding valuable cache to our town’s special identity in the Bay Area. Exhibit runs through 11/18, Thurs.-Sun. 12-5pm, Arts Benicia Gallery. 707.747.0131, firstname.lastname@example.org