I have had the awesome opportunity to work with and get to know Marisa Pascucci, curator of collections at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Last summer was my first time working with a curator on a solo exhibition. I did not know what to expect from the experience. It was without a doubt, a completely positive experience and one which I will remember as my career moves forward. Not only was Marisa incredibly easy to work with, she was also very supportive and encouraging.
I thought maybe some of you may be curious about what a curator at a museum actually does and perhaps some advice:
Tell us a little about your background prior to your current position as curator of collections at Boca Raton Museum of Art.
I began working in the museum world in 1995 in the education department of the Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C. What began as an internship for college credit transitioned into an assistant position the summer after graduation. I then went on to an internship at the Toledo Museum of Art, also in the education department, for a year in between college and graduate school. Once I was accepted into the joint program between Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art, I became a part-time teacher at the Cleveland Museum of Art. As part of the requirements of my graduate degrees, I needed to complete two internships. I chose to do both at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (which was then called the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art). My first internship was in the education department, and for the second part, I switched to the curatorial department and have been involved with curatorial departments ever since. Upon graduating with two master’s degrees in art history and museum studies, I took a job as an assistant curator at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama for five years. From there, I was briefly in Syracuse, New York at the Everson Museum of Art. In 2007, I moved to South Florida for the curator of American art position at the Norton Museum of Art, and in 2012 I became the curator of collections at the Boca Museum.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
This has always been a difficult question for me, and never gets easier. I have a few standouts, but I have periods of art history that I enjoy more than others. My academic, and most of my professional training, has been in American modernism. I also have a strong preference for Italian Baroque art and architecture from my college semester in Rome, while my hobby is gothic art and architecture. My standard line is: I am an art geek and gravitate to nearly all eras and locations throughout the history of art.
What does the collection at Boca Raton Museum of Art comprise that you oversee?
The collection contains over 5,000 objects and is loosely divided into the categories of American and European paintings and sculpture, modern and contemporary art, photography, prints and drawings, African and pre-Columbian.
Can you describe what a typical day is like for you as a curator?
Much of my days are filled with reading, as it is a necessity of the job to stay current on museum and gallery exhibitions and related publications and programming. I also conduct quite a bit of research on the works in the collection. While I have been with the museum for just under four years, there is still much to learn about the collection in order to present an appealing and cohesive installation of the second floor galleries. The museum is also very fortunate to have numerous artworks on loan from a variety of local and national patrons. Such loaned works allow us to present extraordinary works that we otherwise would not have access to given the limited acquisition budget. Therefore I am often reviewing loan proposals to find what fits best within our collection.
What are some of the more interesting things you have done as a curator?
The conversations I have with people continually intrigue me. Within the last week alone, I spoke with a group of high school students who are preparing their final project for the International Art Baccalaureate Program and toured the galleries with area artists and generous lenders to the museum. Each conversation brought a new dynamic and view to the installation of the permanent collection galleries and the three Warhol exhibitions currently on view in the first floor special exhibitions space. I find it invigorating to hear these ideas and perceptions; it helps me to then reassess how I present the collection.
What is your greatest challenge as a curator?
My greatest challenge is funding. While our members and patrons are exceedingly generous, we, as a staff, are always striving to do more — display more of the collection, present more exhibitions, buy more art, offer more programming — and many times we are limited by funding.
What are some of the criteria you look for in acquiring and/or showing a living artist’s work at the museum?
Whether a donation or a loan, we look for quality first and foremost, and then compare it to what is in the collection. If the artist is well-represented in the collection, we will most likely pass and focus our limited gallery and storage space and conservation and storage budgets to showcase a new-to-the-collection artist.
Can you give some advice to artists who would hope to achieve an opportunity with a museum in either exhibition or acquisition?
The most important thing to do is present a professional proposal with high-quality, edited images and current information. Also, keep in mind that Boca Museum receives hundreds of proposals (which is common to all art museums) each year for donations, exhibitions, loans, et cetera, and that it is a group discussion and decision that could at times take several months to complete the review process.
Would you say that there is still a difference in exhibition and collection opportunities for women in art museums?
While it is most definitely far better than it was say 20, 30, 50 years ago, I would say yes, otherwise groups like the Guerrilla Girls would not need to continue to create their billboards and stage performances at institutions across the country.
Please add anything that you think may be interesting to the readers ofProfessional Artist magazine.
When asked for advice, I always give artists and art patrons the same statement: Do what you enjoy! Artists, create what you want to create — and patrons, buy what you want to see every day. It is simple and may seem cliché, but it is the truth. If you do not appreciate what you produce or what you buy, how will you ever convince others that they should support you?
Brenda Hope Zappitell creates abstract expressionist works not only born out of intuition but also serendipitously influenced by nature and life experiences. She earned her B.S.W. from Florida State University in 1986 and her J.D. from University of Miami Law School in 1990. Zappitell is mostly self-taught but has attended classes and workshops in New Mexico, Mexico and Florida. She is represented at galleries around the country and has participated in solo and group exhibitions. Her work is in both private and public collections. Visit zappitellstudio.com.