Director, Department of Exhibitions
Perhaps you could start by giving an overview of the main gallery spaces at Pratt—how do they differ from one another?
The Department of Exhibitions organizes four exhibition spaces on campus. Pratt Manhattan Gallery is structured to be Pratt’s contribution to the cultural landscape of New York City. Much like a non-profit gallery, our mission is to present exhibitions of innovative and challenging work by artists, architects, and designers, from the U.S. and abroad. In addition to exhibitions, our programming includes an education program of lectures, publications, seminars, and conferences.
Schafler Gallery has evolved into the main campus gallery devoted almost entirely to providing students, faculty, and alumni with a professional exhibition space that reflects the diversity of our Pratt community.
The President’s Office Gallery showcases the work of faculty by invitation from President Schutte or by the Department of Exhibitions.
Now, we have a new gallery space, the Admissions Gallery in the new Myrtle Hall. We are excited to mount the first recent graduate exhibition in this beautiful space that has great natural light and that will serve to welcome prospective students and their parents to Pratt.
How does Pratt Manhattan Gallery differ from other galleries nearby in Chelsea or in other parts of the city?
New York City offers a wealth of exhibitions, so to be unique is quite a challenge. When I first became Pratt’s Director of Exhibitions in January 2007, I spent some time trying to figure out what our role would be in the New York and Chelsea gallery community. As a non-profit space, we have to be careful not to duplicate what is going on in the commercial galleries. One way to do that is to organize more theme-based group shows. Though this in itself was not enough to establish a unique identity.
A clue as to how to distinguish ourselves came from our exhibitions committee, which recommended we pursue a political art exhibition to coincide with the 2008 presidential election. I had the pleasure of working with Eleanor Heartney and Larry Litt who guest-curated the exhibition “Party Headquarters: Voting is Just the Beginning.” Our goal with this exhibition, the political comedy series “Pratt Falls,” and the public art/voter registration center was to inspire the art and design student, who up until this point was apathetic towards voting. This combination of a strong exhibition with an added level of social responsibility emerged as a direction for our program. I also looked to Pratt’s own academic goals and realized that the gallery could also play a strong role in supporting sustainability and cross-disciplinary works. It turned out that the presidential election brought out more young voters than we anticipated. Even so, I saw a direction for our program begin to emerge.
Our gallery is also removed from the Chelsea scene geographically. For this reason, I don’t the think the Chelsea designation is that meaningful to us. Rather, I hope to see a new cluster form with our neighbors Parsons, NYU, the Rubin Museum of Art and other arts related organizations in the area. What I call “East Chelsea/Village.”
What have been the most memorable exhibitions in your time at Pratt?
Having watched Tower One of the World Trade center fall from the fourth floor of Pratt’s Main Building, I would have to say “9/11: Pratt Artists Respond” at the Schafler Gallery, was one the most memorable exhibitions I have worked on. I honestly don’t remember the work that much, most people were in a daze at that time, but the feeling of trying to aid in the healing of the campus community was rewarding.
Photo: Diana Pau