The Art Biz ep. 168: Impacting Artists First in a Curatorial Project Focusing on Empathy with Nanci Hersh

It’s so much easier to make art by yourself and show it and sell it by yourself. And this approach works for many artists.

But there are many other artists who crave connection and community. These artists have benefited by creating projects that involve numerous artists and, often, additional members of the community.

They are high on collaboration.

Nanci Hersh Chapel of Tears
©2023 Nanci Hersh, Chapel of Tears. Nanci with a selection of the Waterfall Series scrolls in the upper level of the Chapel of Tears. Photo by A. Vible.

In this episode of The Art Biz I talk with Nanci Hersh about an exhibition she organized with 25 artists from multiple states and countries.

The show used the central theme of tears to explore empathy, compassion, and understanding within a sacred space—a metaphorical chapel. She says, as artists “we are so fortunate that we can use our art to make sense of life experiences.”

Nanci and I discuss:

  • The ripple effect of art when it impacts the artist first.
  • The training she received to facilitate uncomfortable conversations.
  • The benefits of taking on such a big project and why it’s important that it aligned with her values.
  • How the exhibition was paid for and ideas she has for improving funding options in the future.
  • How she stayed organized.
  • The importance of clear lines of communication, accepting help, and practicing gratitude.

[ See also: The Art Biz ep. 136: Putting Artists First in Curatorial Projects with Melissa Messina ]



Chapel of Tears workshop Nanci Hersh
Nanci's 2023 Chapel of Tears community workshop at the Chris White Gallery in Wilmington, Delaware.


“I really trusted the artists.”

“There’s something really fun about being given a challenge.”

“We are so fortunate that we can use our art to make sense of life experiences.”

“Tears reflect a liminal state, meaning they come from inside and they come outside. They’re transitioning.”

“Once you can meet someone where they are, then so much is possible.”

“Don't assume anything and just stay on top of things.”

“The next time I do a show, I would make sure that there's more local artists.”

About My Guest

Nanci Hersh is a contemporary artist whose work is informed by the experiences, relationships, and places in her life. Her two-dimensional work, as well as her sculptures and installations, are at the intersection of personal narrative, art-making, and community engagement—exploring the grace, beauty and fragility of our lives.

Nanci is also a curator, illustrator, educator, arts advocate, and former Executive Director of the Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education. She has one foot in Pennsylvania and the other in Delaware.

Follow her on Instagram @nancihersh

Nancy Hersh
Photo by Avery Burnham.

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3 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 168: Impacting Artists First in a Curatorial Project Focusing on Empathy with Nanci Hersh”

  1. Thank you Alyson! I truly appreciate your time and generosity of spirit. Your questions and insights encourage us to dive deeper. Thank you for all you do to support artists.


  2. I met Nanci through Art Biz Success and have enjoyed our conversations over the years. One thing that has always stood out to me is Nanci’s dedication to other artists. She is the first to collaborate, share the limelight, support, and work with other artists. So, I was excited to listen to this podcast and hear more about her recent collaborative exhibit. I have been following the exhibit on Nanci’s email updates, but listening to the reason she chose the metaphor for tears helped me understand it much better. Thank you to Nanci and Alyson for taking the time to share this work with us, even more poignant given the recent unrest in our troubled world.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      I’m so glad you all have gotten to know one another, Meg. Two wonderful, generous women.

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