Slow is not about time per se, but about connection. - Dr. 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 Dr. 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 (2021). She has presented on this work at the College Art Association (USA), Universities Art Association of Canada, Association for Art History (UK), and several symposiums nationally and internationally. She divides her time between Ireland and Minnesota/USA. Her upcoming book, Slow Curating: A Practical Guide for Socially Engaged Curating, will be published by Routledge UK in Autumn 2023.
Nexus of Art & Well-Being: New Work by Anne Labovitz, Rochester Art Center, 2023
This Blue of Distance: New Work by Eyenga Bokamba curated project at Concordia St Paul University Gallery, 2022
Through the Eyes of Others: Open Submission exhibit at Washington County Historic Courthouse, 2022
Beacons of Hope: Anne Labovitz Exhibition at Concordia St Paul Gallery Curated by Dr Megan Arney Johnston
Curated by Dr Megan Arney Johnston. Minneapolis International Airport Terminals 1 & 2. A Public Art installation of 122 Conversations: Person to Person, Art Beyond Borders (2019 – 2020) by Anne Labovitz.
Explore how an object may communicate ideas, values, and meaning with the exhibition “The Life of an Object: Stories, Meanings & Moments” opening at the Washington County Historic Courthouse in June 2021. Learn how the artifacts in the Historic Courthouse archives that have been preserved and collected through the years tell not only the story of the building itself, but are also a reflection of a time, people, and community. Curated by Dr Megan Arney Johnston.
National and State awards were given for this project. Curated and produced for Washington County Parks Department. Summer 2020. Natural elements were "framed" to highlight form, composition, function, and color. The ever-changing, natural surroundings offered a different view every hour of the day. In these busy times, participants gained a greater appreciation for the beauty of nature that is often overlooked. Photos were shared on social media with the hashtag #WashCoNaturesArtGallery.
Freedom, Independence & Citizenship: The History of Voting Rights in Minnesota (2020). Washington County Historic Courthouse. The exhibition is a celebration of voting rights, timed to coincide with the centennial of women wining the constitutionally guaranteed voting rights. The aim is to present a more complicated view of voting histories--one that reflects the positive and challenging issues in relation to race, country of origin, gender, and class. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/b3cff0
Over the last five years, Johnston worked closely with noted Twin Cities-based, American artist Anne Labovitz. For the 122 Conversations project, Johnston advised Labovitz on several installations for the touring project and edited and produced the accompanying exhibition catalogue. See link below for more images.
The Spokes & Folks (2019) exhibit featured the history and evolution of bicycles and trails in Washington County, Minnesota. Sections include Wheels of Time, Pathway Pioneers, Parks, Paths & People; and Bikes and Bloomers. From basic transportation to recreation, from the high wheel Penny Farthing to the modern Fat-tire Bike, the exhibit highlighted how bicycles have impacted our lives over the past 160 years. Image: Bicycle picnic-Scandia, MN c 1910. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/0440f42
From Scandia in the North to the conflux of the St Croix and Mississippi Rivers in the South, Washington County has a vast array of architecture from the second half of the nineteenth and the early 20th century. The exhibition celebrated and explored the built structures of our community. From Early Colonial and Victorian to Modern buildings, this exhibition focused on various architectural highlights found in the St Croix River Valley from pre-1850 to 1960. See link below for more images.
Johnston sat on the expert selection panel for this public artwork by Po Shu Wang, a multi-media artist with extensive experience in interactive public art installations. His work at Mayo Civic Center (2017) is an interactive “portal” involves members of the public typing a sentiment into a keyboard and then having that sentiment converted to sound and light emanating the 15 foot sculpture on the floor below. Wang explains: “Our aim in public art is to invite the public to be our collaborators."
Co-curated with Shelia Dickinson, Johnston selected the works in this group show, including 36 Andy Warhol prints from the Cochran Collection and which included the Myth and Cowboy & Indian Series. Johnston designed the installation and work with Dickenson to contemporized the show by adding 11 works by contemporary Minnesota artists.
PlaceMakers: Rochester Prototyping Festival (Sept 2016) was a collaboration between the Rochester creative community, Mayo's Destination Medical Center, Rochester Art Center, & Rochester Downtown Alliance. It was a unique effort to engage local designers, artists, and community members in remaking of some of Rochester’s public spaces. The theme Health and the Built Environment fostered 16 prototypes created for public spaces--a number were permanently installed.
A major, signature retrospective of artist Judy Onofrio with an accompanying exhibition catalogue. Curated by Megan Arney Johnston http://judyonofrio.com/media/rac/unearthed/Onofrio.pdf
Andy Warhol: Creating Myth and Icon, Plains Art Museum, North Dakota, USA. Utilizing Slow Curating to create a large-scale show with collaborators from Sundog Marketing (sponsors). Focused on Warhol’s Myths and Cowboy & Indian Series.
An installation by Irish-born, Denmark-based artist Eamon O’Kane. He transformed an entire gallery into an interactive installation, making direct visual and conceptual reference to educational play objects devised by educator and inventor of kindergarten, Friedrich Fröebel (1782-1852). Fröebel was one of the pioneers of pedagogy, who placed play at the center of his teachings as a typical childhood activity that is of great educational value.
Johnston worked as instigator and initial project organizer, working with a consortium of Minneapolis College of Art & Design, the Walker Art Centre, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Weisman Art Museum & dozens of community partners.
A large-scale exhibition of architecture and newly commissioned artwork inspired by the regional site of WB Yeats’ poem The Isle of Innisfree. A co-curated collaborative project with Johnston, Clea van der Grijn, Clíona Brady, Bernadette Donohoe and Michael Roulston from the Architectural Design programme at Sligo IT, and Marianne O'Kane Boal, Art Critic. An international architecture competition, an exhibition of art and architecture, and an accompanying catalogue.
Curated by Johnston BRA was a site-specific intervention and a Think–and–Do Tank with artists, staff and the public in dialogue about issues and ideas of a permeable museum. The site-specific intervention took place in the lobby of The Model, home of the Niland Collection in Sligo, Ireland, The foyer area was staffed by Model employees and artists-in-residence. It was set up in direct defiance to the closed-off office spaces in order to meet, hold public discussions.
New collection-based exhibit at the Model, home of the Niland Collection in Sligo, Ireland. Shared Visions: The Model Collects, was a new, semi-permanent re-installation of the prestigious Niland collection. The exhibition aimed to clearly re-position the Collection as a major artistic asset of the institution and Johnston employed numerous new mediation and curatorial processes.
Irish artist Mark Clare's new work as part of a touring exhibition with Crawford Municipal Museum, Cork.
This project presented a new body of work by internationally known photographer Paul Seawright. The show was part of a larger tour, which began at the Culturel Irlandais in Paris and then moved to the Ulster Museum in Belfast. In his most recent work, Seawright investigates the interiors of television studios located in Europe and America. The media, which create the news bulletins about current wars, are intellectually contested spaces.
Utilizing travel posters from the 1920s and ‘30s in WAM collection, Johnston curated a show on the mythology of place, temporality, and the modernist aesthetic in marketing. Johnston produced an exhibition, interpretive material, and auxiliary programs.
The Return of the Sodbuster: Luis Jiménez in Fargo, Plains Art Museum, North Dakota, USA. Exhibition: Jiménez artworks (nine from PAM permanent collection) including Sodbuster (1st edition); excavated and displayed archived meta-documentation, which allowed viewers to consider how museums conserve artworks; and interactive voting and graffiti mark-making in the gallery as an avenue for immediate and archived feedback. These are just a few of the implemented innovative installation approaches.
Wing Young Huie: Hidden Fargo in Plain Sight, Plains Art Museum, North Dakota, USA. Johnston commissioned new work, community projects, and solo show installation.
Curated and commissioned by Johnston, PROJECT Flood Diversion. Artists Andrea Stanislav, Michael J Strand, Jeff Knight, Rebecca Krinke, NDSU + MSUM students. Fargo, North Dakota. Six art interventions of site-specific installations and collaborations addressing Fargo's annual flooding. Utilizing performance, social practice, exhibitions, and community projects, artists posed questions, presented ideas, and offered solutions while building stronger relationships between the museum and community.
Bob Kurkowski Studio was a 2012 exhibition honoring this important Fargo ceramicist.
Ice Music: Paul D Miller / DJ Spooky, Plains Art Museum, North Dakota, USA. Johnston commissioned a new film remix and an artist-in-residency. DJ Spooky worked with local DJs to host a dance night.
Misfit Cup Liberation Project: New Work by Michael J Strand with ENGAGE U. A social practice work intervention as part of Temporality Series. Plains Art Museum, North Dakota, USA. Part of the Art As Process series, which commissioned new work based on notions of temporality.
You Like This: A Democratic Approach to the Museum Collection, Plains Art Museum, Fargo, North Dakota, USA. Organizing and lead curator with community curatorial team. Utilized online voting mechanisms and unconventional installation techniques (as instructed by the curatorial team). Show included re-voting two more times during the show and a Post-It note comment wall.
'Show and Tell' was a research experiment in radical pedagogy. It was a collaborative outreach project at LAM involving Troup County Senior Center activists and students from the LaGrange College Art Department in Spring, 2011. It was an early example of radical pedagogy in practice, working directly with undergraduate art students. The curatorial premise was to connect two communities in an inter-generational project.
Dream House: New Work by Mark Clare, LaGrange Art Museum, LaGrange, GA. Working with local artists and LaGrange College students, the artist crested a new site-specific temporary artwork for the grounds at LAM based on the idea of the shotgun shack and vernacular architecture of the South.
Elements of Architecture: From Form & Function to Place, LaGrange Art Museum, LaGrange, GA, USA. The show was inspired by The Rural Studio at Auburn (slow architecture) and highlighted areas such as form follows function, vision and process, and place and vernacular. Outreach project: analog photography with high school students in Hogansville, GA.
Archiving Place & Time: Contemporary Art Practice in Northern Ireland since the Belfast Agreement, artists: Willie Doherty, Paul Seawright, John Duncan, Rita Duffy, Sandra Johnson, Conor McGrady, Mary McIntryre, Aisling O’Beirn, Philip Napier, Michael Hogg, and Conor McFeely. Co-curated with Fiona Barber. Toured Manchester, Portadown, and Woverhampton.
Everyone Knows this is Nowhere: New Work by Andre Stitt, MCAC Portadown, Northern Ireland, Ireland/UK. Toured to University of Wales, UK.
The exhibit toured from Highlanes Gallery to Millenium Court Arts Centre and then onto the Ashford Gallery at the Royal Hibernian Academy. Gorman says of the new work: The paintings I am making at the moment explore the interrelationships with overlapping flat shapes and in turn those relationships with the edge of the picture plane. The oil paint is applied quite flatly on to gessoed linen canvas. April 2009
Shuffle: New Work by Richard Gorman, MCAC Portadown, Northern Ireland, Ireland/UK. Toured to Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, Ireland.
I’m not a feminist, but if I was…Guerrilla Girls New Work Revealed, Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown, Northern Ireland, Ireland/UK. An all-Ireland research project and exhibition tour; was a new work commission collaboration with partners Glucksman Gallery, Cork; the University of Ulster, Belfast; and the National College of Art & Design, Dublin.
Template 2.0: An Exhibition of Digital Art, MCAC Portadown, Northern Ireland, Ireland/UK. In collaboration with the International Symposium for Electronic Art (ISEA) 2009.
Dr. 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.
Arney Johnston is primarily an educator and independent curator/producer. Current projects include a archive-based exhibition 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 http://122conversations.com/). Arney Johnston also managed and curated Freedom, Independence & Citizenship: The History of Voting Rights in Minnesota, 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, she 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 national and 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 received 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. 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.
** Hover over ABOUT section at the top on the homepage to see a full CV / Resume.