BURNAWAY asked artists, writers, and curators from cities across the South to tell us who stood out in their arts communities and impacted it in positive ways. Making the list is Mark Scala, the Frist’s chief curator, and Seed Space in Nashville; Wassan Al-Khudhairi, curator of contemporary art at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Katie Pfohl, the new curator of modern and contemporary art at the New Orleans Museum of Art; and in Atlanta, Jordan Poole, the executive director of Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, and the Working Artist Project Grants at MOCA GA, among others.
(Don’t miss our Best Exhibitions of 2015, Favorite Reads, and Cultural Experiences!)
Let us know what your favorites were in our Comments section!
Erica Ciccarone (Nashville)
Seed Space continues to provide spaces for experiment and discussion unlike any other gallery or organization in Nashville. Its founder Adrienne Outlaw moved to St. Louis in May and continues as the founding director, and the rest of the staff is making good on their promise to continue curating and programming. Rachel Bubis says she follows her gut when curating, and it shows: the work is consistently challenging and evocative, asking viewers to expand their ideas of art. Andri Alexandrou heads up programming, bringing big names to Nashville through the “Insight? Outta Sight!” talk series and the NFA program, which collaborates with art departments at three universities. This year included Hrag Vartanian (Hyperallergic), Paddy Johnson (Art F City), and Kenneth Bailey (Design Studio for Social Intervention.) The series connects Nashville artists and critics with others functioning on a national level. Months later, we’re still talking about them.
Lisa Tuttle (Atlanta)
Atlanta Printmakers Studio, Atlanta Celebrates Photography, Daniel Fuller at the Atlanta Contemporary, Working Artist Project Grants at MOCA GA, Beth Lilly at ACP, Ben Goldman and Preston Snyder at Kibbee Gallery, and Teresa Bramlette Reeves at Kennesaw State University’s Zuckerman Museum.
Amy Pleasant (Birmingham)
The biggest impact has come from individuals who have recognized a need for collaboration and creative expansion in Birmingham. That has come in many dynamic forms.
Wassan Al-Khudhairi, curator of contemporary art at the Birmingham Museum of Art: Art Papers, Atlanta, hosted their first Art Papers Live program at the BMA and there will be more in the coming year. She has also implemented new programs at the BMA to activate spaces in the museum that have not been used like the Lobby Projects, and most recently to bring projects outside the museum walls through “Shift: A Temporary Platform for Social Change.” I love her commitment to engaging the community in fresh, new ways.
Lindsey Reynolds, Librarian at the Birmingham Museum of Art: Lindsey manages the BMA’s book and archives collection and is making the BMA library more visible than ever before and is also acquiring artists’ books for the collection.
Bruce and Scottie Lanier-creators of MAKEbhm, Birmingham’s first maker space: It is because of this space, makers of all kinds have the facilities and programming needed to make things happen. It is space for creating but also a space for exchange and collaboration.
Design Week Birmingham,founded by Jared Fulton and Andrew Thomson: These guys have brought such a amazing program to Birmingham that hosts designers from all fields to our city for a week of lectures, exhibitions, and programming of all kinds. 2015 was the third year for DWB and I look forward to seeing what they bring next year.
Joe Nolan (Nashville)
Writer, artist, musician
No one had bigger impact on Nashville’s art scene than Frist chief curator Mark Scala, whose “Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art” exhibition closed out a sprawling three-show series that’s established the center as the only relevant institution for contemporary art in Nashville.
It is with equal dread and curiosity that I look forward to the Nashville arts scene’s changing landscape, as it is devastated by real estate speculation and gentrification, and simultaneously remade in the city’s undiscovered frontiers.
Rebecca Lee Reynolds (New Orleans)
Writer, assistant professor of art history at University of New Orleans
It was a year for new voices establishing their place in the scene. New museum director Mónica Ramírez-Montagut is raising the profile of the Newcomb Art Gallery at Tulane University, now rebranded as the Newcomb Museum (her curatorial debut there was “A Shared Space: KAWS, Karl Wirsum, and Tomoo Gokita”).
Andrea Andersson is the new Helis Foundation Chief Curator of Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center (her curatorial debut there is up now: “James Hoff: B=R=I=C=K=I=N=G” and “Jacqueline Humphries”).
Katie Pfohl is the new Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art (her curatorial debut there includes “Tim Youd: 100 Novels” and “Visions of US: American Art at NOMA,” both on view now).
And then there’s Gia Hamilton, Director of the Joan Mitchell Center, which officially opened this year and established public programming that could position the center as a new nexus for the local art scene.
Vesna Pavlović (Nashville)
Artist, assistant professor of art at Vanderbilt University
Wedgewood Houston neighborhood continues to grow with a number of new galleries, artist studios and artist-run spaces, providing exciting content.
Daniel Fuller (Atlanta)
Curator at Atlanta Contemporary
One of my favorite artists anywhere is the incredible Charles Harlan, who is burning up New York at the moment and is very connected to his hometown of Smyrna, GA. He has some work, including a large scale new piece, coming to Atlanta Contemporary in January.
Also, shouts to Jordan Poole for being one of the most inspiring museum professionals I’ve ever met. The executive director of Rev. Howard Finster’s visionary Paradise Garden, in Summerville, GA, is a tireless promoter of both the Garden’s restoration and the town they are in. It’s a privilege to live so close to such an amazing place.
Mary Addison Hackett (Nashville)
Carri and Brian Jobe: two artists who through Kickstarter, organized and funded LOCATE Arts, a site to promote and connect contemporary art throughout the state of Tennessee.
Be sure to check back in the coming days for more of BURNAWAY’s Best Of 2015, including highlights and significant news stories and looking ahead to what is on the radar for 2016!