My work celebrates collective capacities for care and critique.
— Caroline Woolard, 2018
In spring 2018, Moore College of Art & Design launched the Jane and David Walentas Endowed Fellowship to bring a significant artist, designer, or scholar to engage with the Moore community and Philadelphia organizations on special projects and initiatives during a two-year appointment. The expectation for the Fellowship is open exploration through high-impact initiatives. Embedded in a historic art and design college founded in 1848 by Sarah Worthington Peter to educate, empower, and prepare women to work in new nineteenth century industries, there is an intrinsic (or inevitable) engagement of contemporary art and design pedagogy, yet it is not a teaching fellowship. Instead, the Walentas Fellow was conceived by the donors, with leadership at Moore, as a creative and generative participant, collaborator, and lively “interventionist” in Moore and the expanded urban and cultural environment.
Following a panel review of many nominees, artist Caroline Woolard was selected as the inaugural Walentas Fellow. She nimbly navigates different sites and conditions of contemporary art and design. She has created striking forms in glass and in 3D-printed ceramic and metal that act as objects for facilitation. She is active and facile with networks and open source environments around the world, as well as studios and sites of design, fabrication, and production that bring global reach, organizational theory, and tactile immersion to work that is authentically interdisciplinary, economically based, and centered on justice and equity, including OurGoods.org, see chapter 3 (non-monetary artist exchange); TradeSchool.coop, see chapter 3 (an alternative peer-learning site); BFAMFAPhD.com, see chapter 5 (that focuses on cultural access and equity); and The NYC Real Estate Cooperative (that organizes and incentivizes artists to share resources to create stable and shareable work spaces.)
It is often exciting and occasionally daunting to be “the first,” yet she embraced the elasticity and novelty of the fellowship at Moore and applied dynamic vision to develop a two-year prospectus of initiatives, including workshops with students and Moore faculty on inclusive critique practices, participa- tion in programming at The Free Library of Philadelphia’s new Robert and Eileen Kennedy Heim Center for Civic and Cultural Engagement, and work with Esteban Kelly, Director of the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives on conflict transformation tactics and strategies.
As a self-determined artist and indefatigable organizer (and analyst) of established and emergent forms of cooperation and collaboration within creative communities, Woolard is a striking example of the evolving priorities, passions, and critical practices of contemporary artists. Art and justice, work and life, critical introspection and organizational theory are consistently (re)formed through speculative research and inquisitive future-mindedness. She notates and performs a continuing and scalable choreography animated by questions of work, purpose, and values of community and critique.
“What does a culture of reflection and listening look like?”
This is a question that motivates Caroline’s work, especially at this time. As organizer and collaborator, she has witnessed how creative coalitions dynamically advance or slowly fail. She is committed to bring art process and art objects into spaces and situations where they are often unexpected. The exhibition we invited Woolard to install in The Galleries at Moore in the summer of 2019 is now a traveling exhibition and publication. The book includes ephemera and eclectic evidence of creative and collaborative processes. In the exhibition format, Woolard’s participatory installation, The Meeting, see chapter 1, is central, presenting a large conference table and discursive space to convene, examine, and critique meetings as the unexamined anatomy of organizational (and educational) cultures. She created a series of facilitating and listening objects — artifacts and interventions to reveal the dynamics, power inequities, and challenges of communication and (as she writes) the “unavoidable antagonisms of working together” frequently in numbingly unimaginative spaces.
“What if the tables and objects in our spaces were as imaginative as the conversations we are having?”
Based on work she has developed over the past two years, she will launch a new and ambitious chapter of this work to insert compelling sculptural objects into spaces, circumstances, meetings, and other quotidian events and encounters. These intervening objects are beautiful objects for facilitation settings, meetings, and other group settings. Some of these once migrated throughout Moore and now (with other new additions) become a visceral part of The Free Library of Philadelphia’s extraordinary loanable collection of resources. While animating the Free Library as a center for contemporary art and collaborative cross-sector initiatives, Caroline’s objects will be checked out, like books and videos, to support community organizations and artist-led workshops that create and sustain Philadelphia’s dynamic cultural and collaborative communities.
This book is a vivid, summative representation of her dynamic engagements as the first Walentas Fellow at Moore.
Patricia C. Phillips is Chief Academic Officer at Moore College of Art & Design and an independent writer and curator. Phillips is the author of City Speculations, It is Difficult: Alfredo Jaar, and Ursula von Rydingsvard: Working. Phillips’s curatorial projects include a one-person exhibition on the artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles at the Queens Museum in Flushing, Queens and Making Sense: Five Artists’ Installations on Sensation at the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York.