100 Creatives 2013: Matt Adams, Digital Artist and Independent Curator
If you're looking for a fight on who qualifies as a "real" art curator, you won't find one with Matt Adams. That's not because he doesn't have any thoughts on the issue, he does. He just doesn't think the debate is worth the effort. "There's been a lot of talk over the last few years because anyone can call themselves a curator. I just choose not to engage in those discussions because it's pointless.
Courtesy of Matt Adams
"There's not an industry standard to be [an art] curator. If you're going to be a hairdresser, the state will issue you a license saying you're a hairdresser. So there's a definition for that industry. If you're going to be a CPA, that industry has a definition, a standard you have to meet before you can say you're a CPA. Art doesn't have that."
Adams, a digital artist and president of the Visual Arts Alliance, didn't study to become a curator -- at least not in a classroom. "When I joined the VAA, it was already 22 years old. There was lots of experience there and people were very generous and showed me how to put a show together, what worked, what didn't." Later Adams became president of the organization and as such, liaison to Brookfield Properties, a property management company that includes arts programming in its public spaces. After working with him on other VAA projects, Brookfield approached Adams and asked that he take over visual art programming in its Houston buildings. Adams agreed and officially added the term curator to his resume.
"There's a lot of prejudice out there against people [like me] by people who do have the formal education. 'You know, Matt, you can't call yourself a curator unless you have a degree in art history, unless you have an MFA. How dare you call yourself a curator?' I get it. I recognize I came into this ... in a very unconventional, non-academic, non-formal ... way. but I don't know what other term to use [for what I do] than curator, and that annoys some people. "
Courtesy of Matt Adams
What He Does: "I'm president of the Visual Arts Alliance. I'm an independent curator. I'm a [digital] visual artist."
Why He Likes It: "As a curator, the biggest high for me is selecting the work. That can be looking at an individual artist's studio inventory to helping an artist develop work over a long time."
What Inspires Him: "I look for problems that aren't being solved. I did Houston's first iPhone show. At the time, Houston hadn't had an iPhone show. Brookfield has a problem; they have a lot of space and they want to put art on the walls. Artists have a problem; they're creating work and need a place to exhibit. I can see both of those issues from their point of view and create opportunities for both."
Adams calls Brookfield "the largest corporate philanthropist for the visual arts in Houston." The company has a staff of 12 in New York who coordinate 450 events annually nationwide.
If Not This, Then What: "I'm genetically wired to be visual. It would be in art education realm." Adams and his partner have organized photography classes for at-risk students before. Through his work at VAA, he coordinates several educational events a year.
If Not Here, Then Where: "I've not thought of that. [My partner's] and my families are here. Going somewhere would require a lot of personal upset so I think I'll be staying here in Houston."
What's Next: Adams continues to work with the VVA (over his tenure as president, the organization has gone from some 11 events a year to hosting more than 20).
He recently curated the ">20 Square Feet" exhibit currently on display at 1600 Smith Street (formerly Continental Center I). The show, a collection of large scale work from Houston and Austin artists, has its official opening reception on December 13. Beyond that, his 2014 exhibition schedule isn't firm yet. Along with his husband, Adams has an event space in Montrose. The two have hosted exhibits and related events there before. "We bring in artists and art-related activities on a when-we-feel-like-it basis," Adams laughs. "I have some ideas for shows. We'll see that happens. Something's going to find me again or I make something for myself."
More Creatives for 2013
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Gilbert Ruiz, artist
Dionne Sparkman Noble, choreographer and professor
Lee Wright, artist
Vic Shuttee, comedy writer and performer
Robin Davidson, poet and translator
Jessica Wilbanks, essayist and Pushcart Prize winner
David DeHoyos, astronaut photographer
Sophie Jordan, bestselling book author
Jessi Jordan, comic artist, beekeeper and yeti enthusiast
Patrick Peters, architect and professor
Jamie Kinosian, visual artist
Paris F. Jomadiao, mixed-media artist and stop motion animator
Shanon Adams, dancer
James Glassman, Houstorian historian and artist
Lou Vest, photographer
Sara Gaston, stage and screen star
Rachael Pavlik, a writer mom
Ana Villaronga-Roman, Katy Contemporary Arts Museum director
Erin Wasmund, actor, singer and dancer
Karim Al-Zand, composer
Jan Burandt, paper conservator for The Menil Collection
Deke Anderson, actor
Craig Cohen, hockey fan and host of Houston Matters
Mauro Luna, Poe-Inspired photographer
Trond Saeverud, Galveston Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor
Khrystyna Balushka, paper flower child
Christina Carfora, visual artist and world traveler
Sara Kumar, artistic director for Shunya Theatre
Kiki Maroon, burlesque clown
Gin Martini, fashion designer
Lacey Crawford, painter and sculptor
Homer Starkey, novelist
Jenn Fox, mixed media Shohei Iwahama, dancer
Erica DelGardo, metalsmith
Bob Clark, executive director Houston Family Arts Center
Kerrelyn Sparks, bestselling romance author
Lindsay Halpin, punk rock mad hatter
Drake Simpson, actor
Shelby Carter, Playboy model turned photographer
David Matranga, actor
Crystal Belcher, pole dancer
Daniel Kramer, photographer
Blue 130, pin-up explosion art
Nina Godiwalla, author and TED speaker
David Wilhem, light painter
Tom Abrahams, author and newscaster
Browncoat, pin-up pop artist
Kris Becker, Nu-Classical composer and pianist
Vincent Fink, science fashion
Stephanie Saint Sanchez, Senorita Cinema founder
Ned Gayle, thrift store painting defacer
Sameera Faridi, fashion designer
Greg Ruhe, The Human Puppet
Sophia L. Torres, founder and co-artistic director of Psophonia Dance Company
Maggie Lasher, dance professor and artistic director
Jordan Jaffe, founder of Black Lab Theatre
Outspoken Bean, performance poet
Barry Moore, architect
Josh Montoute, mobile gaming specialist
Ty Doran, young actor
Gwen Zepeda, Houston's first Poet Laureate
Joseph Walsh, principal dancer at Houston Ballet
Justin Garcia, artist
Buck Ross, dilettante and director of Moores Opera Center
Patrick Renner, sculptor of the abstract and the esoteric
Tomas Glass, abstract artist and True Blood musician
Ashley Stoker, painter, photographer and Tumblr muse
Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company
Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography
Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions
Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover
Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist
Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer
Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker
Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer
David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer
Danielle Burns, art curator
Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder
Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator
Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker
Amanda Stevens, scary book author
Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger
Ana MarÃa Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach
Billy D. Washington, comedian
Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer
Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer
Kelly Sears, animator and film maker
Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director
jhon r. stronks,dance-maker
Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer