Curator’s Clues

Behind the Scenes at the WFMA with curator Danny Bills

It has been said exhibition curation could be compared to making a movie. The curator is like a movie director, conceptualizing the exhibition and overseeing all production details, such as selecting artworks and arranging them in space, managing a skilled team, facilitating art shipping, setting dates, planning an opening event, and budgeting, writing, marketing, installing, and problem solving.

Although many curators share a common purpose, there is not one singular process that every curator uses. As we lead up to major exhibitions, I will share with you my process. I hope to give you an insider perspective of art exhibitions and a personal connection to the museum experience.

Danny Bills, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections

Curator’s Clues: Café Con Leche

stack of books

In this installment of Curator’s Clues, I am announcing an exciting collaborative project with a wonderful organization called Café con Leche, kicking off during Hispanic Heritage Month! The Museum and Café’ initiated an impactful relationship in 2018 during the exhibition Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper from the Collection of Cheech Marin. 

According to Gonzalo Robles, founder of Café con Leche, this exhibition and talk by collector and celebrity Cheech Marin made a significant impact on the students Robles mentors: 

“For the event and Exhibit, I had 27 high school and college students in attendance. It was powerful to  watch their body language and interest evolve from the beginning of the show to the end. As we exited  the theater to go to the exhibit at the museum, you could see a new profound pride displayed in their  posture and being. Their eyes were brighter, faces were full of smiles and their bodies stood taller with  shoulders back. You could sense their pride in our culture and the art that emanates from it. The students  learned more about Latino artists at the exhibit as they interacted with other informed art lovers. Since the  event, I’ve observed our students as more self-assured and prideful about themselves and their culture.  To conclude, I honestly do not think I can fully describe the impact or significance the lecture or exhibit  played in our students lives. One word to describe the evening would be ‘transformational.’”

Cafe con Leche is an organization that: 

“…promotes a Culture of High Expectations and emphasizes the importance of Post-Secondary Education for ALL students in our communities. In addition, Cafe empowers families and community with specific demographic, educational, and economic tools to achieve their dreams for a better future.” Quoted from www.mycafeconleche.com, accessed on September 11, 2021. 

This year, the WFMA and Café con Leche are partnering again to give college-bound high school students hands-on museum experience. Starting this Fall semester 2021 and running through the Spring semester of 2022, I will meet weekly with high school participants from Café Con Leche in an educational and vocational project that culminates in a co-curated art exhibition. This project supports the missions of both institutions; the WFMA as an academic museum that is part of a university as well as a dynamic part of community life, and Café Con Leche as vehicle to post-secondary education. 

These college bound students will help select, design, and coordinate an exhibition to open in March 2022. Participants will gain insight from me about how to execute a museum exhibition from start to finish by having direct interactions with artists, making contributions to the decision-making process, and learning about exhibition coordination and curatorial design. I hope students grow in self-confidence, curiosity, communication, and teamwork as well as become aware of possibilities to pursue museum careers. We look forward to sharing their voices with museum audiences in the exhibition and along the way. 

Cafe Con Leche logo

I am looking forward to these next months and excited about all the new things everyone will learn, including myself! 


Explore past exhibitions with Curator’s Clues

Neal Ambrose-Smith, Where are My Heroes, 2016, Color lithograph with watercolor additions; Museum purchase made possible by the 2017 Collectors Circle.

Art from the Collectors Circle: Expanding the Legacy

Follow the story of the WFMA Collectors Circle as curator Danny Bills prepares for the retrospective of artworks acquired by the museum’s Collectors Circle.

Quilt Journeys: Women’s Voices

Take a look at the WFMA quilt collection with Curator Danny Bills as he askes the question: How did they get here?

Color in Art, Color in Life: Prisms, Pigments, and Purpose

Join the process behind creating the exhibition Color in Art, Color in Life as the WFMA curator explores color in art through phycology and artists Scottie Parsons, Roger Shimomura, and Roy Lichtenstein.

Image: Roger Shimomura, Mao, 2016, lithograph. Collectors Circle purchase 2019.