Elinor Slomba: The Grove’s Curatorial Eye
Now here’s a challenge for you: Find the peephole at The Grove. Yes, for all you Grovers who harbor a secret fascination with peepholes but are too proper to indulge your fantasies, you now have dispensation. Go find the peephole and indulge yourself. Telling you exactly where it is would take away the thrill of discovery- and that’s the whole idea behind peepholes, right? It’s a secret. But I will tell you it’s on the second floor.
And just how did The Grove come to have a peephole? Enter: Elinor Slomba. She’s also the person responsible for having Marilyn watch over you as you work and the vines that add such a fun touch of nature outside the Big Bang office and in the downstairs entryway. While Elinor is not the artist who produced these works, she is the person who curated each piece for The Grove’s permanent collection. She is also the founder of Arts Interstices http://artsinterstices.com/, which just celebrated its fourth year of business, and is dedicated to bridging the spaces (interstices) between organizations and the arts and more traditional businesses by providing a way for them to communicate and use each other’s models to their own advantage.
When Elinor was finishing her B.A. in fine art and cultural anthropology at William and Mary, a career advisor at the college suggested she consider a career in the Foreign Service, an idea that seems to amuse Elinor. It’s easy to see that she would have been well-suited to such a career. Today, instead of helping foreign countries navigate their cultural differences, she helps disparate domains recognize they each have something to offer the other. She’s expert in navigating the ‘between spaces’ and in making associations that may not be obvious at first, but once identified opens a vast array of possibilities.
It’s this associative thinking, a process Elinor describes as “definitely nonlinear,” that Elinor sees as a key tool in curating and that she helps people develop in her series of classes on curation.
“We live in a visual age. People can be energized by nontraditional gallery spaces,” she explains, when asked about curating art for business locations. In her work with The Grove, she realized that the concept of collaboration is a key element of The Grove’s culture. In keeping with that value, all of the shows she has curated at The Grove have featured more than one artist. Marilyn, the piece above the elevator doors on the second floor, was part of the show Re:Generate – Art Based on Code (co-curated with another Grove member, Brian Monahan). In this piece, a collaborative effort by Dan Gries, Dannielle Kefford and Dan Bernier, the digital eye resolves the oversized pixels (made from pool noodles) to reveal the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe. The high-tech reference of the work, along with the collaborative nature of its inception, makes it uniquely appropriate for The Grove.
The two other permanent pieces, Peephole by Mark Williams, a New Haven-based artist and Climbing Ivy by Giada Crispiels, an Italian artist who completed a year-long residency at Artspace New Haven in 2012, were part of the show Navigate Complexity. Peephole is an example of artwork intended to be viewed “an eyeball at a time.” Climbing Ivy was the first piece acquired for The Grove’s permanent collection. Crispiels installed this work specifically for The Grove, constructing the vines and leaves from local newspapers and magazines.
In addition to curating art, Elinor offers a 3-part course Open Your Curatorial Eye for those interested in learning about how curating art and mounting an art exhibition. She is offering her next one at The Grove on January 22 http://Curatortraining.bpt.me.
Along with art curation, Elinor is the organizer of the meetup Artful Agilists which holds virtual meetings the first of every month at sococo.com. Through Artful Interstices she offers a range of services including coaching, a variety of training workshops including The Agile Gym™, writes guest blogs and hosts and produces virtual events. Agile is a project management method that differs from the traditional approach in that it stresses collaboration, individual participation and flexible response to dynamic situations. This method was originally designed for software projects but has gained popularity in wider settings. Elinor has adapted this method for her work with her clients.
Arts Interstices clients cross many time zones in the U.S. and Europe. Elinor has done projects for the New Haven Museum, Project Storefronts and Citywide Open Studios. Several Grovers participated in the public programs she produced for the New Haven Museum with the theme Connecticut at Work.
Originally from Tidewater, Virginia, Elinor has been in the New Haven area for 14 years and particularly enjoys the sense of civic space she finds in New England. “It just made me feel like I’d won the lottery to be moving up here,” she said. Elinor discovered the Grove through Meetups. “I like the day-to-day practice of being agile,” she says of working at The Grove. “If a client needs something I can’t provide, there’s usually someone in the [Grove] community who can.”