The Art Biz ep. 116: How One Curator Works with Artists at a Regional Art Center with Collin Parson

Members of the general public enjoy their visits to art centers and museums without much thought as to how the art got into those spaces in the first place.

Art of the State Arvada Center 2022 | on Art Biz Success
Installation view of the Art of the State 2022 exhibition at the Arvada Center. Photo by Wes Magyar.

Who decides on what to show and when to show it?

Who selects which works of art are next to one another and where to put the labels on the wall or a pedestal on the floor?

Who is the lucky dog who has the the ultimate say on the color to paint the walls?

All of these decisions, and more, fall under the purview of curators and exhibition directors, sometimes in consultation with exhibition designers, in those non-profit spaces.

In this episode of The Art Biz podcast I talk with Collin Parson, the Director of Galleries and Curator at the Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities in the Denver suburb of Arvada, Colorado.

Collin, who is also an artist with a robust studio practice, reveals how the exhibition process works at their venue: his timeline, rotating gallery spaces, and the decision makers at the organization.

We also discuss how he selects artists for shows, what makes an artist easy and fun to work with, and why it’s important that artists keep him informed (and how he likes to be kept informed).

If you pay close attention, you’ll pick up on some of the big mistakes he sees artists making—mistakes that are easily fixed.

artist Collin Parson standing in front of his light sculpture at the University of Wyoming | on Art Biz Success
Collin Parson in front of his sculpture installation at the University of Wyoming Art Museum. Photo by Raechel Cook.

Highlights

  • Collin’s background as an artist and his work as a curator. (1:30)
  • Curating a massive space and Collin’s approach to rotating exhibitions. (10:50)
  • Scheduling artists into a gallery’s calendar isn’t as simple as it seems. (19:15)
  • Why Collin generally doesn’t accept exhibition proposals. (22:52)
  • What makes an artist fun to collaborate with? (26:48)
  • What Collin wishes every artist would do—and not do. (33:03)
  • Studio visits and what curators expect from artists. (38:25)
  • Finding inspiration for the most memorable shows. (45:35)
  • Details about juried shows and artist rosters. (48:55)
  • Balancing curating exhibits, making art, and a personal life. (55:03)
exhibition inSITu of artist chairs from studio Arvada Center | on Art Biz Success
Installation shot of inSITu: From the Artist's Perspective exhibition (2018) at the Arvada Center. This was one of my favorite shows, as we discuss in the episode. Photo by Wes Magyar.

Collin Parson Quotes

  • “Work or volunteer at an art center and you will learn so much as an artist about what to do and what not to do.”
  • “I always tell artists sometimes you have to be patient. Just let me know you’re out there.” 
  • “You can remove the ego and just have confidence.” 
  • “[Curating a show] is a very collaborative process.” 
  • “You can’t get accepted into exhibits until you put your work out there.”

Mentioned

About My Guestartist Collin Parson red plaid shirt smile in front of brick wall| on Art Biz Success

Born and raised in Colorado, Collin Parson currently serves as the Director of Galleries and Curator for the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in Arvada, Colorado, is a former member of the historic Pirate: Contemporary Art cooperative, and is an alumni of RedLine’s artist residency program. An arts administrator, artist, curator, and designer, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater Design and Technology with an emphasis in Lighting and Scene Design from CU at Boulder and his MA in Visual Culture and Arts Administration from Regis University.

Follow Collin on Instagram: @collinparson

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1 thought on “The Art Biz ep. 116: How One Curator Works with Artists at a Regional Art Center with Collin Parson”

  1. Only got to listen to this now. SO good. Interesting, informative. I love to hear how people get to where they are and do what they do. Collin parson was a generous guest. (actually do you have any other kind? 😊). And that Warrior Chair show. As soon as I finished listening I went online to see MORE.That inSITu exhibit…wonderful! Will be following Collin, and the Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities.
    As always, thank you!

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