A Curatorial Roundtable on Audience Engagement with Mark Allen & Adam Lerner
14 Sep 2010
On August 3, 2010, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage invited Mark Allen and Adam Lerner to participate in a curatorial roundtable on audience engagement. Allen is the founder and executive director of Machine Project, Los Angeles. He collaborates with artists across disciplines to develop events, workshops, performances, and site-specific installations that blur the boundaries between art and its exhibition spaces and feature hands-on engagement and participation for audiences. As the director and chief animator in the department of structures and fictions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Lerner has engaged the Denver arts community with programming such as “Mixed Taste,” a series of tag-team lectures from experts on seemingly unrelated subjects.
Allen and Lerner each shared examples of their innovations and discussed methods of collaboration, the impact of institutional creativity on surrounding communities, and the utmost seriousness of humor.
Excerpts from the Q&A segment of their roundtable can be found below.
“Once you start to move into the space that the museum constructs its identity and brand in, which is public engagement, how signage is constructed, how things are messaged—then […] the voice of the artist and the voice of the institution…the distinction between them becomes unclear.”
“The art world [is] very, very forgiving in its definition of what an artist is but extremely unforgiving and conservative in the definition of what a [museum] is.”
“I want to work with institutions who [say], ‘This is great! Half of the people have no idea where they’re going. They ended up somewhere they didn’t expect to be and they’re loving it.’”
About Mark Allen
Mark Allen is founder and executive director of Machine Project, a neighborhood arts collaborative in Los Angeles that grew out of a desire to create an informal community space where people could gather around different kinds of ideas, from poetry and experimental music to technology and food. Allen collaborates with artists across disciplines to develop events, workshops, performances, and site-specific installations that blur the boundaries between art and its exhibition spaces and feature hands-on engagement and participation for audiences. In its Echo Park storefront space, Machine Project hosts an eclectic mix of free public events and is the home base for a self-described “loose confederacy” of artists who produce shows at locations ranging from the Santa Monica beach to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“Because […] we’re willing to take a chance, people are able to say, ‘Denver is this amazing place.’”
“A lot of it is a trusted environment that informs people and gives them an escape route.”
About Adam Lerner
Adam Lerner directs the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver, where he has also assigned himself the title of chief animator in the Department of Fabrications. That dual title is appropriate, given how he has managed to organize important contemporary art exhibitions at MCA Denver while engaging the public with events that may be unexpected for an art museum. Lerner was the founder and executive director of the Laboratory of Arts and Ideas at Belmar until it merged with MCA Denver in 2009. He was the master teacher for modern and contemporary art at the Denver Art Museum from 2001 to 2003, and curator of the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, before moving to Colorado.