River City Biennale FAQ
What’s the difference between a biennial, a bi-annual and a biennale?
A biennial is something that happens every two years, a bi-annual happens twice a year, and a biennale is something that also happens every two years, but “biennale” is most often used to describe a biennial art exhibition.
Where does the concept of a biennale come from?
For an in-depth description, please refer to the Wikipedia definition, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biennale
How did the 2008 River City Biennale get started?
In September of 2006, a group of Wichita artists, frustrated with the art world’s perceived indifference to middle America, met informally, and came up with the idea based on their desire to elevate Wichita to the national stage. They felt that the notion of a solely bi-coastal contemporary American art scene was becoming more and more obsolete, and that Wichita’s art community was worthy of national recognition. Furthermore, artists of note generally leave Wichita in order to pursue careers on the coasts, and this cultural loss could potentially weaken our community. The City of Wichita is currently spending a great deal of time, energy and tax dollars on revitalizing our downtown, becoming a tourist destination, and providing incentives for large companies to move here, and “brain drain” is one of the primary factors in any failure to attain these goals. There was, at that time, little institutional support for Wichita artists, and the organizers felt that they could fill this void with a large-scale event such as a biennale. Initially, the organizers had intended to begin this process by forming a granting foundation that would, in a similar manner to the Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City (http://www.charlottestreet.org/), offer Wichita artists unrestricted merit-based grants, as a means of both keeping our artists here, luring them back after an extended absence, and drawing new artists to our community. The winners of the Charlotte Street Foundation grants are awarded, along with their grant money, a large exhibition in a prestigious Kansas City institution, and the River City Biennale organizers wondered if it might be possible to do the same thing in Wichita. Museums were contacted, directors expressed interest, and the idea slowly evolved. However, these things can take a long time, and be fraught with bureaucratic peril, so the RCB finally decided to begin the process themselves. Thus, the River City Biennale was conceived, as an initial event to build enthusiasm and support for art in Wichita, as well as to fundraise for the S.U.R. (Studios Under Review) Prize Foundation.
What’s the difference between a curated and juried exhibition?
A juried art exhibition is one where the artwork is evaluated solely on the basis of merit, while work in a curated exhibition is chosen, by a curator, to reflect his/her vision—merit is a factor, but works of similar merit may not be chosen for exhibition, if the curator does not believe that they work well together. The curator for ‘Center to Edge: 2008’ is Stacy Switzer, the artistic director of Grand Arts in Kansas City.
How and why was the curator chosen?
It was the intention of the RCB organizers that this event bring regional and national acclaim to our community, and offer local artists a means to develop their careers outside of our community, so the curator had to be someone with both a positive regional and national reputation, as well as valuable connections. Several curators were considered; one other was actually invited, but declined the invitation because of prior commitments. Ms. Switzer was invited after the exhibition planners reached a consensus. Grand Arts, in particular, has exhibited a wide range of work, not often found in Wichita’s galleries and museums, and the organizers felt that Ms. Switzer would bring a new, and hopefully stimulating, perspective to Wichita.
What was the process to choose the RCB artists?
The sole criteria for participation was that the artist had to be from Wichita, as this event was conceived as a way of specifically bringing recognition to the Wichita art community. Initially, there was a call for nominations, in March of 2007; emailed to Wichita art professionals (museum directors, artists, gallery owners, etc.), and then a wider call was posted in the newspaper and via various art lists. The nominees were notified of their nomination by email in May, given an identifying administrative number and invited to post up to 5 images on a blog, maintaining anonymity by using only their number. A google group was set up as well, to offer assistance or advice to those artists that were not comfortable with computers, or had trouble with the upload feature on the blog. Nominees were also encouraged to contact the site administrators, to whom they could email their images and request that the administrators post them instead. There was a set deadline of July 15th, for image uploading. Once the deadline had passed, the curator went through the images and chose artists, solely by identifying number, for further correspondence and a possible eventual studio visit. These artists were consequently notified by email and studio visits were arranged. Ms. Switzer then contacted these artists individually and initiated a dialogue. Some of the artists were not currently living in Wichita (traveling or working temporarily elsewhere), so those studio visits were conducted via the internet. Eventually, the original 56 artists were distilled down to 9, and then the final 7.
Why were four of the artists also the owners of the spaces in which the biennale was exhibited?
This was purely coincidental, as the initial selection process was anonymous. The event organizers and art space owners had no input in the curator’s evaluation criteria, or her final decision. Ms. Switzer is a professional, and much respected in her field.
If any of the work does get sold, where does the commission go?
The artists will get 60% of the sale, and the other 40% will go to the S.U.R. Prize Foundation. The curator and guest critics were given stipends to cover their costs, as were the live musicians and catering staff, but other than that, all other organizing work was done on a volunteer basis.
How was the money raised for the 2008 River City Biennale? How will the money be raised for the S.U.R. Prize?
The event organizers fundraised themselves, writing grants and soliciting corporations and local foundations, as well as individuals and companies that have a history of supporting the arts in Wichita. This was a solely artist-organized, artist-funded initiative. It is anticipated that the S.U.R. Prize Foundation will be funded in the same manner, but naming rights are available, should a local art-friendly business want to donate the funds. Initially, three $1000 grants are scheduled, with yearly increases as the foundation becomes self-sustainable.
What is a ‘Salon des Refuses’, and who organized that?
Wikipedia also has a good definition for this, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salon_des_refuses. The Salon was organized by a separate group of Wichita artists.