As Emerson aptly noted, “…a man may be known by the books he reads”; here at The Dairy Arts Center, we maintain that we are best known, perhaps, by the cultural pursuits we hold most dear. The format is simple: one fellow creative associated with your own Dairy Arts Center, 13 questions, and a song of their choice. In this edition Rebecca Cuscaden, the new Curator of Visual Arts at the Dairy Arts Center, sits down with writer and critic Jack Hanley to talk Renaissance inspirations, Land Art, and the future vision of the Visual Arts program at the Dairy.
1. Last Art installation or show you saw- in which city- and with whom?
I just went to the opening of Nice Work If You Can Get It at RedLine in Denver. I attended with a local artist, Amber Jensdotter, and it was a great show. Check it out if you can!
2. You earned your Master’s in Art History and Museum Studies from the University of Chicago. What is your favorite museum in the Windy City?
The Art Institute of Chicago. Their collection is huge and incredible, I actually volunteered there at their information desks while I was in graduate school.
3. What work of art never fails to move you to tears?
Too many, but I will say that Renaissance and Baroque churches tend to always make me tear up. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is a prime example, but there are so many others too. The combination of amazing architecture, paintings, and sculptures all intentionally placed and playing off of each other in the interior space is incredible to experience.
4. The “meh” confession- name an artist (or artistic movement) you are less than enthused about…
I’m not that into the Suprematism movement of the 20th century, artists such as Kazimir Malevich (though I do like some of his works). While I fully understand the importance of this movement I’m not very excited by the works in it, such as Malevich’s Black Square and White on White.
5. What was the first piece of visual art that you can remember made an impact on you?
I remember visiting the Art Institute of Chicago when I was very young (my family is from the Chicago suburbs) and first seeing the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat. Of course many pieces at the Art Institute stood out to me, but as a child Seurat’s huge pointillist painting is quite impressive to see in person.
6. What is currently on your bookstand (or Kindle?)
I always seem to be reading multiple books at once. Right now I’m finishing Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, in the middle of A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, and about to start Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.
7. The Evangelist: what is a work of art that you feel is grossly underrated?
I’m going with a category on this one and that’s Land Art in general, such as the Spiral Jetty by Smithson and Valley Curtain by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. While many people do appreciate this genre of art, others often write it off, often saying the artists are destroying our land without appreciating the larger messages these pieces communicate as well as the amount of time and effort involved in creating such monumental works of art.
8. What has been your greatest challenge as the Director of Visual Arts at the Dairy Center?
It has probably been learning and appreciating where the Dairy Arts Center has come from, especially its visual arts program, and figuring out the ways in which I could improve the program for the future. I have made quite a few changes since entering this position and hope that it helps to improve our galleries’ relevancy in the local contemporary arts scene and to expand the audience we bring into the Dairy Arts Center.
9. Your unabashed favorite artist and why.
This is too hard of a question for an art historian, I have too many favorites! I suppose I’ll go with Leonardo da Vinci. He was a truly remarkable artist, not only for helping define the Italian Renaissance with his artistic style and techniques, but also because of his many diverse personal interests, including biology/anatomy, math, astronomy, engineering, etc.
10. If you could attempt any career outside your current genre, what would it be?
I’ve always had a fascination with astronomy and would love to try a career in that field. Despite the fact that I work in the humanities now I’ve actually always enjoyed math and science and would love to work in a field that uses those skills to discover more of the unknown.
11. You are organizing a dinner party- which three artists, dead or alive, get an invite?
I’m going old school on this one due to my field of study. I would have to invite Leonardo da Vinci, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Artemisia Gentileschi. If I was allowed an unlimited number though I would invite an artist from every art historical movement — that would create some interesting conversations
12. What sub-genre of the visual arts might people be surprised you have a passion for?
I’m very interested in how people are meant to view and appreciate works of art. As in how the artist actually intended his/her works to be viewed, and how that intent may not always be respected by institutions that display the works due to curatorial practices or institutional constraints.
13. What personal vision can we be expecting from your curation and direction at the Dairy Arts Center?
I plan to continue the Dairy’s legacy of providing opportunities to emerging artists and community groups to display their art in our galleries, as well as start bringing in more great contemporary artists in our local area, our country, and international artists as well. The Dairy Arts Center is focused on providing our patrons with a variety of art experiences, which I would like to expand on in our galleries. Patrons can also expect to see a continued focus on educational programming and more formal exhibition installations with an intent to educate our audiences about the art on display and broaden their appreciation of contemporary art.
What is your Song Request?
“Wake Me Up” by Aloe Blacc
Rebecca Cuscaden is the Curator of Visual Arts at the Dairy Arts Center. She earned dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Art History and Archaeology and Psychology from the University of Missouri, as well as a minor in Italian Studies. She also earned her Master of Arts degree in Art History and Museum Studies from the University of Chicago. Rebecca has previously worked at the Hyde Park Art Center and interned at the Oriental Institute museum, both in Chicago. When not curating at the Dairy Center, she can be found serving on the Exhibitions Jury at the Firehouse Art Center in Longmont and occasionally juding local community art shows.