Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rubric for Art?

Rubrics have become popular with teachers as a means of communicating expectations for an assignment, providing focused feedback on works in progress and grading final products. Although the word rubric can be interpreted in slightly different ways, the commonly accepted definition is a document that articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria, or what counts, and describing levels of quality from excellent to poor. Sounds reasonable, right?

This Spring the rubric Archeology of Place is identified in an exhibition catalogue called Mound City at Laumeier Sculpture Park. The catalogue boldly proclaims that this show is, in fact, the fifth exhibition to be so governed. That means these exhibitions are somehow judged by how well they live up to the academic quest intended to “celebrate and critique the unique role our city plays in the history and myths of America.” Really? If so, where is the scorecard for the five shows?

Mound City (2014), The River Between Us (2013), Camp Out: Finding Home in an Unstable World (2012), Dog Days of Summer (2011), Night Light; (Indoor/outdoor video exhibition 2010) - these five exhibitions, of which I have become somewhat familiar, are ephemeral for the most part. Most of this work will no longer be on display in ten years, (or in one year for that matter). Artists are invited to participate and commissioned to contribute. Sometimes grants help offset the costs. The director and chief curator of the park is the driving force for each show. She is knowledgeable and plugged into academic circles, museums, art collectors and the galleries that tend to shape perceptions in contemporary art. Presumably, she is held accountable to the board, of whom she selects. These well meaning citizens are buying the rhetoric and are pleased with the results. The partnership between the county parks and the foundation seems healthy and happy.

Work is underway for a new exhibition space and renovations to the estate house. Membership drives and fundraising activity continues. It seems that all is well. I’m just wondering where I can view the scoring rubric for five years of art exhibits. Or is that too much like suggesting the Emperor has no clothes?

Question for discussion: What role should a museum play in presenting contemporary art?

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