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Li Sumpter, PhD

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Li Sumpter, PhD

Curatorial Studies

Li Sumpter, PhD, admits she doesn’t spend a lot of time on social media, but she says digital platforms are creating an evolution in the practice of curating.

“It can get overwhelming, those platforms, in terms of all the images and things that are coming at you,” she said. “But at the same time, when it’s done really well, it can be really powerful and pretty amazing in terms of what everyday people can do with these tools to curate images that then convey messages or stories.”

Sumpter teaches Curatorial Projects as well as Thinking and Working Like a Curator, and has also taught Curatorial Methods at Moore, which has the first undergraduate Curatorial Studies major of its kind in the country

She says Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are putting the spotlight on the trained eye of a curator.

“I think there has been an underscoring of curatorial fellowships, and the idea of what it means to have that specified training in curating,” she said.

Sumpter believes curators must emphasize education and help viewers to understand the artist’s vision and intentions when engaging with various art forms.

“That’s something that I think is also a trend, that now curators are really thinking hard about how to engage audiences beyond just putting art on the walls or having a screening or even performance art,” she said.

Sumpter says she is blown away by the ways in which curatorial students can express their ideas.

“For example, the students I’m working with, a lot of them have skills in InDesign or design software programs that allow them to take their vision and communicate it  through infographics and all kinds of things,” she said. “A lot of the students here at Moore, they come with these skills. It puts them at an advantage.”

Sumpter says those skills have come into play in an ongoing partnership with Park Towne Place apartments on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, not far from Moore. Curatorial Studies students are designing the corridors on each residential floor, including a huge digital printout of a Thomas Eakins painting, and framed reproductions of Eakins’ paintings with wall labels describing the art.

Another trend she’s noticing is a push for diversity.

“One of the things I’m really happy to see, as far as changes in the field, is that there are designated fellowships now for expanding the field in a diverse way,” she said, pointing to fellowships created at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for curators of color.

“I think that it really says something about the idea of access and agency, inclusion and equity,” Sumpter said. “When you think about the fact that images define our world, it’s very important that the people who have that power to create and curate this visual experience, that all walks of life are represented and have that power.”