In the wake of the pandemic, Detroit’s art community faced shake-ups and changes amid the changing times. At the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), change is in the air following the termination of Executive Director Elysia Borowy-Reeder back in July.
Charting a course for MOCAD’s future, the Board of Directors announced that Jova Lynne has returned to the museum as The Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator. With strong support from members of Detroit’s art community, Lynne’s appointment comes with the announcement of a new exhibition featuring 42 Detroit artists set to open February 2021.
Speaking with Detroitisit, Lynne tells us about her background and what we can see coming out of MOCAD in the near future.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND BEFORE REJOINING MOCAD?
I am an artist and curator. I’m originally from New York City, but I’ve lived in Detroit for a little bit over five years now. I moved here from Oakland, California, and I was working in San Francisco. I came to Detroit because I love the city, but I also ended up going to Cranbrook for grad school and I lived in Detroit the whole time while I was getting my MFA in photography.
I lived in Detroit and I loved Detroit and I wanted to stay here, so you know, Cranbrook was a way for me to get here, but being here felt so important to me.
My background is in museum life, so I applied for the MOCAD curatorial fellowship and wound up at MOCAD. My background is really rooted in community engagement, curation, and artistic practice as a lens to really engage with the most important issues of our time.
My involvement with the art community in Detroit specifically really comes from a place of trying to connect the dots. Detroit is like a little big city to me; everybody knows everybody and engages with everybody, but there are so many ways to be an artist here and I think that’s fascinating and kind of unique.
Detroit has such a strong history in terms of shaping the contemporary art landscape that is just so invigorating.
In addition to my work as a curator. I co-facilitate and operate a program called Bulk Space. That includes an artist residency program that’s specifically targeted towards local marginalized artists. We have a visiting artist program workshops and exhibition series.
I’m also a working artist, so I have my own studio here in Detroit and I just really love being a part of that community here.
OUTSIDE OF THE ART, WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE CITY?
My favorite thing about the city? I think one of my favorite things about the city is how big it is. It’s so big; you can be a part of so many different things.
I’m from a walking city and when I first moved here, I was just like, “I have to be in my car?” but now I love it. I just like love being able to zip from here to there like within like 10 to 20 minutes maximum.
Living here is almost like a practice in meditation and exploration.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ROLE IN MOCAD?
So I am a curator now, which means I supervise a curatorial team of four, five including myself, curators. It is my responsibility to work with them to bring really amazing exhibitions to Detroit, and each of them so wonderful in their own right.
Each of the curators at MOCAD, I have to say, I’m really excited about.
My curatorial work is rooted in my curatorial vision, which is to really highlight contemporary art practices as they relate to the sort of contemporary engagement with the various issues the world is grappling with.
HOW IS MOCAD GOING TO ENGAGE MORE WITH THE DETROIT COMMUNITY
At MOCAD, I think we’re in a deep planning process. The nature of COVID and folks not being able to gather en mass is providing us with unique opportunities to think about how digital content can be a means to reach out to people who might not generally engage in the arts.
I think that we are really trying to be more responsive to the community in our planning process. Taking into consideration the voices of community members as we plan things.
We’re in a place where we’re about to launch a lot; this time has been a time of transition. I would say that what’s about to be unrolled will show the community that the institution is listening.
HOW HAS COVID CHANGED THINGS AT THE MUSEUM ASIDE FROM THINGS MOVING TO A MORE VIRTUAL FORMAT?
We are open to the public and we do have a capacity for 80, which is pretty decent. As we begin to plan workshops, we’re going to have to do some very targeted outreach and maybe at-capacity sign-up things.
I think, again, we’re still trying to figure all of that out and sort of look at what other museums are doing in the area to help guide us and stick within the appropriate health guidelines.
WHAT CAN YOU SHARE ABOUT THE UPCOMING EXHIBITION IN FEBRUARY?
That upcoming exhibition I’m really excited about. The curatorial process is actually a little bit different than when we traditionally curate exhibitions in a museum.
In general, in my curatorial practice, I like to work very closely with the artists, which is something MOCAD likes—working closely with artists that can both conceptualize and produce exhibitions.
This is a 42 person group exhibition that’s organized by myself, a curatorial fellow, and a group of artists, advisors, and advisory board members.
Katherine Luchs, I don’t know if you are aware of her work, but she came to MOCAD with a show that really looked at collaboration between artists. I have been working with her on the artist advisory committee to take that idea and expand it a little bit so that we look at collaboration both across practice, generation, age, and experience.
This is a pretty diverse group show that has collaborative projects from established artists to very emerging artists, all local to Detroit and it’s I think it’s really exciting. The exhibition and the curatorial practice highlight what can happen when an institution and a group of artists work together to form something.
There’s going to be sculpting, painting, installations, photography, a little bit of video. It’s truly a multidisciplinary exhibition.