CINCINNATI -- Wave Pool Gallery has started a curatorial residency program to give artists a paid opportunity to build the skills they need beyond making art.
"We're building what we never had, what we wished we had," said Maria Seda-Reeder, coordinator of the curatorial residency, artist and a former Wave Pool board member.
After Seda-Reeder and Wave Pool founder Calcagno Cullen graduated with advanced arts degrees, they found themselves in Cincinnati facing a lack of paid opportunities to produce art or build the administerial skills they needed to work for a larger art organization. Seda-Reeder stayed and scraped together her own opportunities -- DIY exhibits, critique nights with friends and assorted freelance gigs -- around odd jobs, while Cullen left and spent five years gaining experience in San Francisco before returning to start Wave Pool.
"There's a gap between school and professional life," Cullen said. "That's why we see so many artists boomeranging back to Cincinnati."
Wave Pool's curatorial residency is modeled after mentorship Cullen received at SOMArts in San Francisco. Her experience there landed her a job curating the gallery at Adobe Books, Cullen said, and that position led directly to her desire and ability to open Wave Pool.
Along with mentorship, Wave Pool curatorial residents will receive a $2,000 stipend and marketing and administration support to build an exhibit. Grants from ArtsWave and the Ohio Arts Council are covering the cost of the pilot program, which joins Wave Pool's slate of projects, including a yearlong artist-in-residency program, to build and expand the Cincinnati arts scene.
"What Wave Pool is doing is so multi-faceted and vital," said Matt Distel, exhibitions director at the Carnegie. "The curatorial residency program builds on many of their previous projects. ... To be a working artist in Cincinnati means that you will be doing many things that are not simply making art. The curatorial residency is a chance to learn or flex a related but different muscle."
Distel sat on the jury of artists, arts professionals and community members that chose the first curatorial residents from a slate of 11 proposals. Artists and aspiring curators had to put together a plan for an exhibit that would connect with Wave Pool's neighborhood-focused mission to use contemporary art to spark social engagement.
"Curating can tend to be rooted in the academic or museum worlds," Distel said. "Projects like Wave Pool's make explicit that great shows can also be born from communities of artists and simply like-minded folks getting together to share common interests. Curating can exist as commentary on art but also holds a lot of power when it is integrated into a community."
The first Wave Pool curatorial residents are Abby Mae Friend, Harry Sanchez Jr. and SubStudio, a partnership of spatial artists and educators Hannah Dewhirst and Ingrid Alexandra Schmidt.
Friend will open the first exhibit, "WITH NO MEMORIES NO TIES NO PHANTOMS TO TEND FOR," on Jan. 20.
"There's not a whole lot of opportunities in Cincinnati that are paid," Friend said.
"It's nice to be able to work in the arts, pushing forward the ideas you want to see in the arts community."
Friend's exhibit will include work from eight artists -- some local and some from as far away as Alaska.
As the exhibits come together, Seda-Reeder is there to hold Friend and the other curatorial residents accountable for deadlines and budgets and offer advice and expertise.
"Who better to teach young art professionals about the art world hustle than someone who's done it," Cullen said.
Submissions for the next slate of curatorial residents will open in the spring.