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Emerging Art Writers: An ALP Developed at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

By Lisa Mackay

Cassandra Paul is the Exhibitions and Programs Coordinator at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery in the Alberta University of the Arts (AUA). In 2019, she enrolled in and completed the Rozsa Arts Management Program (RAMP), and as a final project, she created and presented an Action Learning Plan (ALP) for the gallery.

The ALPs provide RAMP participants an opportunity to directly apply their learnings in arts management to real-life situations and companies. The identification of a specific challenge flexes their newfound critical thinking and analytical skills across every aspect of arts management, and they need to use communication and presentation effectively in the final class. Finally, the ALP is a tangible outcome of the program for the participant and the company. The Rozsa Foundation has seen so many strategic and forward-thinking ALPs over the years that a specific granting stream was developed to fund the projects from a presented plan into a reality.

The Illingworth Kerr Gallery supports graduate and undergraduate learning and participates in global dialogue by hosting local, regional, and international artists working in a variety of disciplines. During her time in the RAMP program, Cassandra identified the need at the gallery for additional programs and opportunities to support emerging artists as they launch their careers. She distributed a survey through the Student’s Association and the feedback received showed 68% of respondents wanted professional development workshops and 43% wanted opportunities for art writing. While numerous courses have writing assignments, there was currently no class dedicated to critical art writing at AUArts. Over the years, there had been a number of student-led writing groups and publications, but these are typically disbanded when the students graduate.

Early in the project, Cassandra enlisted the help of Dr. Mark Clintberg to brainstorm ideas and build a framework for the program. Clintberg is a well-published Associate Professor at AUArts where he teaches art history and research methodologies. Together they put together an art writing workshop series, and through the Rozsa Foundation's ALP Granting Stream, they hosted eight students in a series of workshops and editing sessions led by Clintberg. to develop written responses both to exhibitions on campus and within the community. Award-winning senior art critic Nancy Tousley was invited to lead an editing session and provide feedback on the students' writing. Upon completion of the workshop series, each of the participants produced a final draft of their writing to be published in a printed catalogue.

The IKG’s Public Programming and Outreach Assistant, Reeny Hua, worked collaboratively with Rachel MacKinnon, a 4th year Illustration student, to create the editorial layout and design of the catalogue. Rachel also found illustrations that correspondde to each participants writing. After meeting with the writers, Reeny and Rachel produced an 87”, 12 panel accordion-style catalogue with a book jacket. The texts are printed at different orientations, requiring readers to fold and unfold, flip and turn the pages creating an active and tactile reading experience.

Based on the success of Cassandra's program, AUArts is considering developing a credit course on critical art writing. As a course, it would have the capacity for more students, and provide participants with more regular assignments and feedback. In a post-program survey, EAWP participants stated that they appreciated the camaraderie and seriousness of a small extra-curricular group, but also saw benefits and recognized challenges should this writing program be offered as a credited course.

The Illingworth Kerr Gallery will continue to collaborate with Faculty on both curricular and extra-curricular programming, as well as coordinating visiting artists and offering a space and context to discuss exhibitions on campus. While the school contemplates the program, the gallery will continue to play an important role in supporting students interested in art writing by providing mentorship resources to foster student writing as an ongoing and integral part of campus life at AUArts.

The Rozsa Foundation will once again be offering the Arts Management Program this fall, although much of it will be online due to the current pandemic. Anyone interested can take this quick survey to help Rozsa Foundation and U of C re-configure the course for an online setting. Cassandra's successful implementation of her ALP at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery will no doubt be discussed as yet another group of arts administration professionals create their action learning plans. It is by encouraging and funding these types of projects that the foundation endeavours to build and sustain a thriving arts community in Calgary.

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