For the first of our In the Industry series, we speak to curator, consultant, creative producer and friend of Yellowzine Mattie Loyce. Mattie was our go-to and guiding star for our Issue 02 launch back in May 2018, and she has played that role for many other artists and collectives across the her (very impressive) career.
Artistic Programme Manager; 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning (Jan 2018-present)
Founder, Curator; Mission Gallery (2014-Present)
Launch Events Coordinator; Peckham Levels (Nov 2017 – Jan 2018)
Founder, Producer; The Art of Life After (2015-2016)
Therapeutic Training Specialist, Therapeutic Mentor, Family Advocate (2012-2016)
Writer, Events Producer; SaveOurSouls Boston (2010-2014)
MA in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship: Leadership Pathway, Goldsmiths University of London (2016-2017)
Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology, Minors in African-American Studies and Education, Northeastern University; Boston MA (2008-2012)
What’s your job title?
I am a curator, creative Producer, and consultant.
Main Job Title: Curator, Artistic Programme Manager at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning
What does a day at work for you look like?
A day at work always varies depending on the projects I am working on! Regular hours at the gallery are 10:30-5:30pm* but this varies depending on evening programme and general demands of the work at hand.
As the curator and programme manager at 198CAL I oversee the management of our entire artistic programme, which means I organise and coordinate the needs for all of our exhibitions and independent programmes that occur throughout the calendar year. This includes balancing our calendar from 6 months to a year at a time, working with with exhibiting artists, collaborative organisations, funding bodies, and technicians to produce any events. 75% of my work is admin, admin, admin, but the fun days include: studio visits, exhibition installation, attending programmes etc. Keeping on top of emails and following up, researching new artists, opportunities, engagements and constantly writing/editing/designing production materials are the ‘few’ major keys.
I do a lot of the admin work on my own, and then work collaboratively with the director and gallery assistant on funding applications, programme coordination, marketing materials, and exhibition installation.
In my time outside of 198CAL, I enjoy producing and curating my own independent events and consulting creative projects/organisations. This is fun and mostly a solo initiative through which I collaborate with various artists and organisations. When I do independent work, I try to make it flexible between site visits and working remote to keep things fresh and keep my energy up. I am currently running a series of events titled REEL VISION, which is a short film screening + panel + after party highlighting talent in film and music industries at The Curtain, Shoreditch.
(The next in the REEL VISION series is an International Women's day event celebrating women of colour in film and music. The films explore themes of mythology and the art of storytelling through the unique use sound, imagery and language. Our afterparty will be lead by DJ SHY ONE of NTS and Touching Bass and feature a special live music set!)
What’s the process of curating for an exhibition?
For me, curating exhibitions should come from an organic interest or inspired inclination to produce a vision – whether that be a group show/event, or a solo production. If you are a curator, I believe your interests and involvement with art and cultural work should not stop when you leave your ‘job’; just as artists, your personal interests and investments directly impact your curatorial practice. I try to spend a significant amount of my time attending, engaging, and researching different artists, practices, events, and general cultural work. This exploration ranges from attending exhibitions, watching films, going to music gigs, panel talks, and importantly speaking to friends/colleagues that inspire me! Doing these things not only bring me life, but often become building blocks for things I want to produce.
The ‘basic steps’ of curating an exhibition go as follows:
1. Pick a topic or theme: If it's for a group show I usually have a conceptual basis that I am asking artists to respond to, or bringing their work together to highlight and engage a specific conversation. If it's a solo exhibition – we have the artist, but we still need to decide/define what theme/thread is that runs through the show as the narrative of discussion.
2. Decide logistics – Where / When / Who / How? Major questions are always where it will be and how will it be funded? 3. Confirmation of logistics – this usually takes the longest. Timing needed can very based on your capacity, the collaborators and the universe*. 4. Don’t forget to include programming! I truly believe in creating engaged public programming along with any exhibition because it increases access and diversifies the way an audience can experience the work. 5. Promotional Materials! Marketing! Announce! Share! 6. Produce: Install the exhibition 7. Open for the world to see!
How did you become a curator?
I have gotten to where I am through completing projects based on passion first, building a network based on inspirations and aspirations, and committing to personal goals. I started curating initially out of frustration with the city I was living in at the time, and a desire to see more art that I wasn’t getting access to. In 2014 I founded Mission Gallery, my first major curatorial project, which was was/is a travelling art gallery focused on supporting emerging artists of colour. I founded it in response to what I felt was a severe lack of access, for both artists and audience members alike, to engage and explore work produced by emerging artists and artists of colour. Prior to this I was a part of a creative collective of artists, writing and producing various events, but in 2014 I took the leap on my own.
I started this DIY curatorial work while still having a full-time job in a field completely unrelated to the arts, and after 2 years in practice I decided I wanted to pursue career working in the arts. I left my job, and looked into obtaining a Masters in something related to the creative and cultural industries with hopes that this would grant me better opportunity to gain employment in the arts, since I had no ‘formal’ experience thus far beyond my own projects.
During my Masters I continued my practice, and Mission Gallery work, building connections and collaborations that eventually developed into an expansive network of artists and organisers. Through committing to this foundational work, and continuing my personal commitment to this greater professional goal, I coincidentally organised an exhibition at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning. After this experience of working with them and staying in touch, they later asked me back to fulfil my current job post and my first ‘professional’ curatorial position.
Do you need a degree for your job?
Yes, usually, but the degree can vary depending on the type of work you would like to do.
Due to the level of project management and research involved with curation, you will likely need a degree, but dependent on the type of organisation or institution you want to work with, and the level of curation/programming you are interested in the type can vary.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
I get to see my dreams come to life. I get to attend and produce the art exhibitions or programmes that I want to experience, but have not yet happened, AND I get to support artists in expanding their work and visions into new realms of existence and visibility they have yet to be explore.
What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?
Staying on top of the administrative needs with a cool head. When working with high numbers of people and institutions often things change, e.g. schedules, funding, availability, etc. Finding ways to troubleshoot these obstacles while attempting to stick to original visions or creating diplomatic new solutions is one of the most challenging things.
Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by work, and if so, how do you manage stress?
Yes, I absolutely do. I try to employ simple skills to manage. I always write my calendar down to keep an organised understanding about what I need to do, and when it needs to be done – this ranges from monthly meetings to daily tasks. When I have particularly busy periods I will keep post-it notes through the day of tasks I need to complete so I don’t forget, and cross them out as needed. Holistically, I make sure to listen to music when I work, this helps me. I cross off things from my lists so I feel and can see accomplishments. I take brief breaks during the day once I have completed a number of tasks; walking, singing, stretching, meditating. I drink lots of water, and if a particularly busy period I try to schedule a treat to self, so I can have a moment not focused on the work.
What would you advice people like yourself aiming to apply for your position?
I think anyone looking into a position I have or like mine:
1. Needs to be passionate about their work, and also know what their specific/unique interests are. In the arts we are allowed to be specific in our interests and points of curatorial/artistic investment – know this and go for this! We should always be dedicated to expanding/diversifying our knowledge, but be equally confident in what we love and what we want to work for/toward. 2. Be very organised with admin; know how to write comprehensive emails, know how to coordinate multiple projects at once; know how to research both art, artists, and institutions that build an intentional network for overall development and delivery of projects.
3. If you don’t feel you have the ‘professional’ experience yet, build it through your own work!
If you could recommend resource(s) to learn/take inspiration from, what would it/they be?
- Build your life schedule like a mood board. (This is not a direct resource, more a concept to consider. If you want to see or grow in certain areas, start adding them in, slowly but surely the aesthetic of your life/work will change)
- If in uni, audit courses. Follow your interests - (related or not to your degree)
- Treat every event and experience as an opportunity for learning.