Slow is not about time per se, but about connection. - Megan Arney Johnston
Slow Curating is a working framework that embraces methods to facilitate deep connections to community, locality, and reciprocal relationships (between people and between art/objects and audience) and evolves over time. It is a practice that enables, explores, and expands museum and exhibition experiences for more relevant audience engagement. First coined in 2009 by Megan Arney Johnston, then Director at Millennium Court Arts Centre in Portadown in Northern Ireland, it has since been featured at various conferences and publications, including Open Engagement (2012, 2014, 2015), On Curating (2014), and as part of her PhD (2020), which will soon be published as a book.
The theme Health and the Built Environment fostered 16 prototypes created for public spaces--a number were permanently installed.
Megan Arney Johnston is a curator, writer, and educator who utilizes socially engaged practices to connect with audiences. She is interested in where creativity converges with visual culture and civil engagement. Her passion is focusing on creating inclusive museum environments for audiences. She loves working to connect communities and museums.
Johnston is primarily an educator and independent curator/producer. Current projects include a history-based exhibition on Voting Rights in Minnesota at the Historic Courthouse in Stillwater, MN, project advising on noted American artist Anne Labovitz’s Minneapolis Airport public art installation, and a collaboration with Labovitz entitled I Love You Institute. Recent curatorial projects include the exhibition production, curation, and editing of the accompanying catalogue for 122 Conversations: Person to Person, Art Beyond Borders by Labovitz (found at Arney Johnston also managed and curated Spokes and Folks: The History of Bicycles and Paths in Washington County (2019) as well as People and Places: Architecture in Washington County - 1850 - 1960 (2018) at the Washington County Historical Courthouse. Arney Johnston has garnered numerous awards and funding for her projects, including grants from state, national, and international funding organizations. As a noted scholar and practitioner in the field of exhibition making and museums, Arney Johnston has written dozens of exhibition catalog essays and academic journal articles in addition to presenting on contemporary museum practice, socially engaged methods, and radical museology at numerous international conferences.
Arney Johnston has held strategic positions as Director at Rochester Art Center, in Rochester, Minnesota, and the Model, home of the Niland Collection in Sligo, Ireland. Recent projects include co-curator of Andy Warhol: Minnesota Goes Pop and the signature solo show by noted Minnesota artist Judy Onofrio. She was also the instigator and project team member on the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Take Over in 2016, a collaboration between the Weisman Art Museum, the Walker Art Centre, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis College of Art & Design, and community partners. Highlights in Ireland include the site-specific intervention The Bureau of Radical Accessibility (2015) and several signature projects including solo exhibitions by noted UK photographer Paul Seawright, Irish artist Mark Clare, and a collaborative curated/commissioned project entitled Liminal Spaces: Art, Architecture and Place, which was a group show focusing on the regional site of WB Yeats’ poem The Isle of Innisfree.
For more than 25 years, Arney Johnston has worked in leading museums and galleries both in Ireland and the United States, including positions at the Walker Arts Centre, the Weisman Art Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In that period of time, Arney Johnston has curated and organized hundreds of projects, including shows with New York-based artist Paul D Miller (DJ Spooky), collections-based shows on Andy Warhol and Luis Jimenez, with internationally known Belfast photographer Paul Seawright (2010 & 2015) and the two commissioned projects by the US-based feminist artists the Guerrilla Girls (2009-10 & 2015-16).
In 2007 Arney Johnston curated and organized concurrent shows for the Made in Northern Ireland exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and throughout Northern Ireland for Craft Northern Ireland and the NI government. In 2006 Johnston curated the Frank Gehry, Architect: Designs for Museums exhibition as its only European venue; and she was shortlisted to curate Northern Ireland’s Venice Biennale pavilion. In 2009 Johnston moved back to the United States to the Deep South, becoming Director and curator at the LaGrange Art Museum in LaGrange, Georgia. From 2011-2013 she was Director of Curatorial Affairs and Interpretation at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, working with Judy Onofrio, Wing Young Huie, Christina Schmid, Michael Strand, and curated numerous collection and temporary shows including “Andy Warhol: Creating Myth & Icon” with three responsive commissions of contemporary art.
Originally from Stillwater, Minnesota, she has a BA in the History of Art, focusing on Contemporary art, French Realism (with Dr. Gabriel Weisberg), and a minor in Women’s Studies and Feminist Art (studying with Dr. Griselda Pollock). In 2005, Arney Johnston broke new academic ground in her work in post-conflict and art research with her MA in Irish Visual Culture at the University of Ulster in Belfast, focusing on the visual manifestations of the construction of ‘Orange’ culture. The show is now recognized as a benchmarked for the utilization of art and conflict resolution.
Arney Johnston is finishing her practiced-based PhD at Ulster on socially engaged curatorial practice at the School of Art, Design & the Built Environment at the University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her thesis is: ‘Curating in Contexts: Slow Curating—A Reflective Practice’. The focus is on how museums can use innovative methods and approaches to mediate relevant public experiences. This thesis is a practice-led exploration of socially engaged curatorial practice in regional museums as a discourse that is responsive to: the artistic, political and communitarian practices in the sixties and seventies; its own development and professionalization in the late eighties and noughties; and its dramatic growth via dominant yet competing perspectives of post-institutional critique since 2000. The research has developed a framework for a curatorial process called ‘slow curating’ that enables, explores and expands museum and exhibition experiences for more relevantly audience engagement. Slow Curating stretches beyond previous academic knowledge of exhibitions and institutional critique. As a social practice it portends new alternatives to current museology as well as a catalyst for change in the mediation of contemporary art.
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