I learned so much about working with institutions to make art, as this was my first time working with a big budget on my own, and it was the MoMA Education Department’s first time bringing in artists to work with on a project that blurred the lines between an artwork, a public program, and a class. I learned to scale back.
I learned to do much smaller projects, as the institutional lines of communication and policies make moving quickly impossible.
I made many mistakes in my work with MoMA, as I had never made a project based upon an institutional invitation. I learned to do much smaller projects, as the institutional lines of communication and policies make moving quickly impossible. Doing something well, especially if that something requires “unconventional” requests that might seem completely “normal” in a collectively-initiated setting (like sharing a budget, making a website, or changing the hours that a space is open), can take months in a big institution like MoMA.
While I tried to do way too many things, which meant that many of them did not happen or happened in a way that was less finished and well-considered than I would like, I did accomplish a few things that stand out today. Working with MoMA, I was able to:
redistribute money from MoMA to collectives and artists of color that I respect;
change the hours that the café (and therefore an area of the museum) was open in order to allow working people to visit after regular working hours;
get catering and supplies from local vendors;
and change the hiring policies so that people with “criminal records” could be hired at MoMA.
I believe that, whenever possible, commissions from resource-rich institutions should support small businesses, artists who are nonbinary, women, and/or people of color, and that I should use these opportunities to redistribute resources back to social movements. I was able to get funding for many groups and people doing important work in New York City, but I cannot share the budget with you as MoMA has requested that I keep it confidential.
fig. 4-11 Caroline Woolard’s Barricade to Bed beside Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures in Discomfort: Furniture, Function and Form in Contemporary Sculpture, curated by Liz Sheehan at the Hunterdon Museum.