Grace Davies Guest Curator Talk

The new curators had fantastic insights into the working world of Grace Davies, the Experience & Partnerships Curator for the National Trust. Having worked internationally as a curator and bringing a self starter attitude to bringing back arts festivals around the UK we all had lots of advice to take from this talk.

The concept of ‘why’ was a theme running through the talk and we learnt that asking why is one of the most important questions for being a curator. When you make decisions on behalf of the public we have to see it from their perspective, will it benefit or add anything to the viewers life?

In a world where the demand for attention has never been greater, we found this an excellent lesson to take from the talk. Curating work that is beneficial, succinct and worthy of people’s time will be a challenge, but a fun one!

The responsibility of being a curator is far greater than one may think, for we are the gatekeepers and translators of the work, we enable it to be consumed by the public. Grace also spoke to us about challenges she has faced with certain events and how these situations can be navigated in a positive way. Accessibility is a concern for all of us new curators and we want our work to be experienced by all audiences. Thinking around issues in a positive way can greatly affect our curation and we hope we succeed in making our work open to all.

A wonderful talk with many insights into the commissioning process but also about what it really means to be a curator. To conclude with a quote from Grace, ‘Being a curator is about the choices you make. Stories you tell or don’t tell. Think carefully about the curatorial choices you make and why you make them’.

New Artists and Meeting the Team 

Working on a new interactive online platform, Wonder, we got to meet the new b-side artists. We also got to know the staff of b-side, with an introduction from Sandy Kirkby, Rocca Holly-Nambi, Amanda Wallwork and Molly Scarborough.

In this talk Sandy Kirkby detailed the work that goes into site-specific curation, helping us to understand how to engage with new people and define the artwork that is produced / curated. We learnt how areas we use for socialising can have positive benefits on work by reaching a more varied audience and therefore turning an artwork into a social activity for viewers. We curators are very interested in the idea of audience participation and interaction, making it a focus for our outcome at the festival. During the talk we gained knowledge in issues faced when holding outside festivals and events. These include clear signposting, understanding the longevity of artworks outdoors and we now know to secure our signs tightly so as not to have them eaten by the goats!

As we were talked through some of the favourite and varied works from over the last few years, it became apparent the infinite possibilities in curation making it exciting to all of us. We are now encouraged to think whether we curators can create a legacy of some kind with our outcome whilst still Keeping Portland Weird.

Location Visits 

Working in a digital space can only go so far when we need to curate for a site-specific festival. Luckily in the last week us new curators have had the opportunity to have some socially distanced location visits.

Alix and myself (Amy) have taken to the Portland Pathways medieval path. Starting at St George’s Church and moving across Portland to the ancient windmills then down to Church Ope Cove. Covering a variety of environments and terrain it was wonderful to think how the land has changed and the remnants of its history are still there today. One thing was beautifully apparent: Portland stone, new and old being used in all different ways. From the grave stones to the buildings we crossed from the church, through the streets of houses, the windmills still standing strong and the small walls built around the beach huts. The white chalky stone is everywhere you turn on Portland, even when it’s old it has a glorious colour and strength to it that reminds us that it will withstand long after us.

Last week Amy, Chris, Bobby and myself (Maddi) endeavoured on a Portland walk, exploring the North East area of the island. Starting in Fortuneswell we took the steep path up Verne Hill Road venturing to the Royal Naval Cemetery where we had glorious views over the port to mainland Weymouth. Going slightly off-road we took some questionable paths that would lead us to beautifully camouflaged stone bunkers and neglected structures. Getting a little lost in the prickles, we then headed to the harbour where we took a lengthy pause on Ayton Drive. There we took a moment to observe the wooden cladded stone bridge, fascinated by its connection from the newly built Ocean Views Apartment Complex to the abandoned building on the adjacent side. Two worlds represented by the strikingly different structures that rise high. One stands completely solitary, while the other occupied and bustling with lockdown home life. We stood imagining installed artworks, picturing the accessibility and focusing on the concept we could see before us. This site stuck in our minds for our continued walk down to the jetty where we were soon shaken up by a seagull catching a large fish.


Till next time, Maddi & Amy.