Hi, I’m Shane Golby, and I’m the Curator/Manager for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibition Program (TREX), TREX Region 2, organized by the Art Gallery of Alberta. TREX Region 2 brings exhibitions to communities across northern Alberta and I’m responsible for curating and organizing four exhibitions each year. This involves developing exhibition themes, choosing and contracting artists for each exhibition and managing the delivery and return of exhibition artworks. In addition, I research, develop and design educational content to accompany each exhibition, arrange the shipment of exhibitions to and from the venues, manage preparatory staff concerning the framing and crating of artworks, design a yearly booking catalogue, manage annual bookings and track attendance.
It sounds like there’s a lot to do to see a TREX exhibition through from start to finish! Could you describe a typical day at the AGA?
There is no ‘typical’ day in the TREX program, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy this position—every day is a ‘new’ day. The TREX program operates on a yearly cycle with the beginning and ending dates of exhibitions and shipping dates known well in advance. As a result there is, relatively speaking, a great deal of flexibility in the structure of each day which allows for creativity and enables one to meet specific challenges which arise in a timely fashion.
How does one become a Curator and Manager of such a unique program?
There are a few different routes to becoming a gallery curator but what they share is that a university degree is essential. While curatorial studies have become a specific academic discipline and most curators have master’s degrees in art history and/or curatorial studies, I entered the field through the ‘back door’ with skills which have proved essential for what I do. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Anthropology and a BEd degree in Secondary Education. My degree in history and anthropology provided me with a broad knowledge base, which I draw upon extensively in the development of exhibition themes. My education degree—and thirteen years of experience as a classroom teacher in a variety of cross-cultural placements—is essential as the primary clients for TREX exhibitions are schools and libraries. My background has thus provided me with the skills to both understand and meet the needs of a variety of TREX clients. Besides my educational background, I am a working artist with a working knowledge of a variety of art media and a good knowledge of art styles and history. Other non-academic skills which I find are quite important in this role are an overall sense of creativity, curiosity and a degree of risk-taking.
If you had to choose a favourite exhibition, which would you choose and why?
I have been employed with the Art Gallery of Alberta for twenty years and have seen many exhibitions come and go. If I chose a favourite, however, I’d have to say it was the Maxwell Bates exhibition from 2004, curated by Michael Morris and Nancy Townshend. Bates was an expressionist artist from Calgary who concentrated on the figure and social/political situations in his work. I ‘love’ expressionist art and am strongly drawn to narrative art works, so both Bates’ style and subjects appeal to me. As well, the exhibition was ‘chock a block full’ of art. As I don’t possess a minimalist ‘spirit’, the overall presentation also appealed to me.
We’d love to hear about a favourite “art experience” you’ve had at the AGA.
One of my favourite experiences working with the Art Gallery of Alberta has to do with the Maxwell Bates exhibition. At the time of this exhibition I was employed as the Education Manager for the gallery, involved with planning, arranging and often presenting student and adult tours of gallery exhibitions. The gallery director at the time, Tony Lupino, decided to tie the Bates exhibition, part of which dealt with drawings Bates made while he was a prisoner of war during World War II, to local Holocaust Memorial celebrations. To accomplish this, Mr. Lupino invited Edmonton’s Jewish community to attend the gallery for tours of the Bates exhibition after the Memorial service and asked me to assist him in delivering the tours. Neither of us knew how many people would attend and were shocked, surprised and thrilled when over 200 people descended on the gallery at the same time. Despite the initial chaos, the event proved to be very rewarding and invigorating and the few hours we spent with this ‘group’ is a memory I’ll never forget.