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

Expanding a Legacy: A Retrospective of Acquisitions made possible by the WFMA Collectors Circle

This Fall we will be exhibiting a retrospective of artworks acquired by the museum’s Collectors Circle. Normally retrospective refers to achievement by a single artist over time, highlighting the changes and developments in their body of work.

In this case, we are using the concept of retrospective to show how the Collectors Circle Collection has contributed to the opportunity to see yourself at the WFMA by strategically selecting works that have increased the breadth, depth, and diversity of the permanent collection. 

The Collectors Circle was formed in 2010 to create a vehicle for the museum to continue to collect, in support of the museum’s goal to build an excellent collection of American art on paper. Members of the Collectors Circle not only help the museum collect, but also experience first-hand what is available on the art market, how curators use networking, and what goes into care, conservation, and presentation of artwork. Members know their impact by seeing their acquisitions become exhibitions that serve the cultural life of the region and reflect the human experience. 

Throughout the year Circle members learn about artists and artworks identified to enrich the Permanent Collection. Then, once a year the Collectors Circle gathers at the museum for an elegant and lively event to see prospective acquisitions, hear details from the curator, and vote on selections for purchase. Since 2010 Circle members have purchased over 80 artworks that expand the WFMA’s legacy of collecting.

In my next Curator’s Clues installment, I will discuss some of the artists that will appear in the exhibit (Jacqueline Bishop, Karsten Creightny, Frederick Mershimer, Andrea Rich, Neal Ambrose-Smith, and Emmi Whitehorse) and why the work is important to collect and exhibit. 

I hope this behind-the-scenes look at how exhibitions come about invites you to discover the WFMA Permanent Collection!


Explore past exhibitions with Curator’s Clues

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.