Executive Director Rick Kinsel is honored to serve as a visual arts curator for Pen and Brush, supporting the launch of the 120 year-old organization’s new programming. Pen and Brush is devoted to addressing gender-based inequality in the arts by providing a platform for talented women in the visual arts and literature. This year, it has unveiled a new vetting system and online submissions platform, aiming to increase exposure for emerging women artists and writers. Works are being accepted on a rolling basis now at penandbrush.org.
As a visual arts curator, Rick will be reviewing submissions and providing recommendations for group shows and feature exhibitions to be hosted by Pen and Brush in their soon to open exhibition space. He will be working alongside other distinguished curators and arts presenters such as Marla Prather, curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Kelly Kivland, assistant curator at the Dia Art Foundation.
Recently, Rick spoke with Janice Sands, executive director of Pen and Brush, about his thoughts on the current state of the art world, the most common traits of successful artists, and why he supports Pen and Brush’s mission of gender parity in the arts. Read a clip below, and head over to the Huffington Post for the full interview, in two parts!
JS: What are the biggest challenges facing the art world right now?
RK: American arts organizations are increasingly desperate for money, and that worries me a lot. Government support of the arts has been slipping for the last 20 years, and, generally speaking, public funding has not kept up with inflation. According to annual reports from the Grantmakers in the Arts, public funding of the arts increased only very modestly in 2014, and this was the first time in six years that funding from federal, state, and local governments increased at all over the prior fiscal year. Using 1994 dollars, funding for the arts has actually decreased by 26 percent!
This situation is extremely problematic for those of us who work in the nonprofit world, because the drop in public funding has meant that arts organizations now rely more than ever before on private support to cover their basic operating costs. Foundation-based funding for the arts has stabilized since the recession, but there is no guarantee that the private sector will continue this level of support in the future. It is largely made possible through charitable contributions, and charitable contributions are dependent on a healthy financial climate. This is not a situation that’s good for the arts, and it’s not good for American society overall, since it means we are falling behind, culturally, as a nation.
JS: Why did you decide to sign on as a visual arts curator for Pen and Brush?
RK: I think it’s a question of basic human justice that women should achieve gender parity in our society at all levels. A century ago, women could not vote and were only able to work at the most menial and low-paying of jobs. That’s no longer the case — but even now, women do not earn the same as men. If the arts are a mirror of our society, it seems to me imperative that women be recognized as artistic equals — and in some cases, superiors!
After all, the arts help shape and influence public discourse. I know this firsthand from the Vilcek Foundation’s work with immigrants. We create space for artists from an underrepresented community. We give them greater visibility while allowing them to speak in their own voices. Pen and Brush does something similar. Since I want to participate in that feminist discourse, I am pleased to serve as a curator at Pen and Brush.
I was also attracted to Pen and Brush’s prioritization of excellence. It echoes our belief at the Vilcek Foundation that the simplest and most effective way to fulfill our mission is to find and support the best and brightest. Work of high quality is indisputable, regardless of the gender, ethnicity, or citizenship status of the maker.
Finally, and on a very basic level, Pen and Brush gives opportunities to artists. There are many, many more artists and writers whom we would love to support through the Vilcek Foundation, and unfortunately it just isn’t possible to help everyone. Pen and Brush is a much-needed source of recognition for artists and writers, so I am particularly glad to be a part of it for that reason.