Curator Judith Tannenbaum to Teach MFA Class This Summer

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Judith Tannenbaum, the former Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), will teach a Professional Practices Seminar to Moore’s Studio Art MFA students this summer. She is also working across the Parkway, curating the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Framing Fraktur exhibition, Word & Image: Contemporary Artists Connect to Fraktur, on view through June 14.


The Professional Practices course covers professional art business practices, including resume development, artist lectures, research of funding opportunities, budget planning, grant writing, contracts and other administrative skills. Students will learn how to practice professional behavior when interacting with prospective associates, create and communicate a project plan and conduct assessments on artist grant applications.


“I am delighted to have Judith teaching our Professional Practices Seminar as she has real-world experience in jurying artist applications and curating exhibitions in a variety of contexts that will allow her to speak to the diversity of ways to be an artist in the world today,” said Daniel Tucker, assistant professor and graduate program manager in Social and Studio Practices (which includes the MFA degree in Studio Art).  “I am also interested in her exhibition at the Free Library because it represents a kind of curatorial practice that brings historical folk art objects into direct conversation with objects made by contemporary artists.”


The exhibition, Framing Fraktur, is a three-month celebration of the delightfully detailed manuscript art known as fraktur, made by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania beginning in 1683. Word & Image features drawings, paintings, woodblock prints and embroideries by seven international, contemporary artists. While discussion of fraktur has often been confined to the folk art genre, Word & Image reinterprets and reframes traditional fraktur through a contemporary lens that is international in scope, multi-generational, and diverse in content, medium and formal approach.


When the Free Library was looking for a contemporary curator, Tannenbaum was a natural fit. She had relocated to Philadelphia in 2013 and was semi-retired, but jumped at the chance to curate the exhibition.


“I am particularly interested in the crossovers between fine art, folk art, craft and design, breaking down these categories,” Tannenbaum said. “I did not know a lot about fraktur, but it’s a folk genre, and I’m interested in art by `outsider artists.’ I’m also interested in how text and images are brought together in traditional fraktur as well as in works by contemporary artists.”


Tannenbaum was named RISD Museum’s first curator of contemporary art in 2000. In 2002, she became the Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art, the Museum’s first endowed position, which she held until 2013. She continues her connection to RISD as Adjunct Curator.


Tannenbaum has organized numerous exhibitions focusing on painting, sculpture, video, and interdisciplinary work--with a particular interest in connections between visual art and performance and relationships among fine art, craft, and design. From 1986 to 2000, she served variously as curator, associate director, and interim director at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.


In May 2014, Tannenbaum was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Moore College of Art & Design. She has an MA in Art History from Hunter College, City University of New York, and a BA in English from Douglass College, Rutgers University.


Tannenbaum is looking forward to her return to the College this summer to teach the Professional Practices Seminar. She was first introduced to Daniel Tucker at last year’s Visionary Woman Awards gala and he later approached her to teach the class.


“The obvious fit was curatorial studies, but I felt that my experience would lend itself, and whatever I could offer would be valuable to students,” she said. “A lot of the class will be about what it means to be an artist now and what are the opportunities, how do you use your skills. I’m not a working artist but in my experience as a curator, I’ve worked with artists all the time, so I will approach it from that point of view.”


Learn more about the exhibition at the Free Library


Published on May 20th, 2015