After five years at Ruiz-Healy Art as the Associate Director, I started to search for a new position that could further my career development. I loved working for the artists on the roster, gaining more familiarity with artists from Mexico, and wholly devoted myself to the business for a half-a-decade, but at this point, I have extensive experience working in a commercial art gallery. Much of my professional growth was from my projects outside of the gallery. Fortunately, all of my hard work paid off as my portfolio of independent projects (that I worked on tirelessly in the evenings) paved my way to new opportunities.
Just after RHA, I had returned to the museum world for a short stint as the McNay Art Museum’s Communications and Marketing Manager. (I had worked in museum development at the San Antonio Museum of Art during graduate school, took a number of Museum Studies Classes at Harvard Extension School, and also had volunteered in museums previously.) However, my return to museum work was short-lived, as it ended up being only a summertime position, because the offer from Albright College solidified shortly after taking the job. I am honored to have been offered the role at the McNay Art Museum, and I am proud that my self-taught marketing and PR skills honed from a collective decade of gallery work, won me the respected job. Although one of my favorite aspects of art business is still marketing, I couldn’t pass up the dream role of full-time curator, whereas the press releases I will write going forward will focus on my favorite projects—my own.
Excitingly, a number of prestigious publications wrote articles about my new appointment including Artforum and Glasstire. My new role was also announced in industry newsletters such as AAMG and my Alma mater of UTSA also gave me a proud shout out. (A gratifying tidbit is that I wrote the press release for my own announcement and sent it to Albright prior to my arrival. I never understood the phrase “the early bird gets the worm” because it seems from my experience that you can seize all your dreams in the wee hours of the night.)
On September 11th, I moved from Texas to Pennsylvania and eagerly jumped right into work on September 12th. As the new Curator of Collections & Exhibitions of the Freedman Gallery at Albright College, I have inherited a rich legacy, as well as, a long list of exhibitions that I will need to see to fruition. Luckily, I have a few gaps in the schedule to keep my excitement going in the meantime.
I am now in charge of three rotating exhibition spaces: an 1800 square foot Main Gallery with gloriously high ceilings, the much smaller Project Space at 500 square feet, and the Foyer Gallery which displays primarily video works. In addition, I also oversee the care of a nearly a 2000-piece collection and its accompanying campus-wide art loan program. Artworks by Lee Krasner, Rufino Tamayo, Salvador Dalí, Peter Saul, Robert Rauschenberg, Victor Vasarely, and many more notable artists are within the Freedman Gallery Collection. You can search the Gallery’s holdings on Artstor. In addition to these works, Albright College has extensive outdoor sculpture collection throughout its grounds that are also under my care.
I will start to program in the Main Gallery in September of 2020 and have a few upcoming gaps in the Project Space that I am thrilled to develop. As for the Foyer Gallery, I had the opportunity to immediately schedule it for the year, and I am currently researching more new media and video artists to plan its exhibitions further out. Taco: Texas by Raul Gonzalez is currently on display, and I wrote a bifold publication contextualizing the project.
I have a lot on my plate in addition to searching for artists to plan my future curatorial projects and executing the exhibition ideas passed down to me. I am busy waking up the social media accounts and have already gained the Gallery some great traditional press coverage. The Freedman Gallery’s Facebook page was dormant since December of 2014. Please friend the Freedman @FreedmanGalleryatAlbright! For the time being, I am contributing to the CFA’s Instagram — that is a shared platform (so the aesthetic is not my own). Nonetheless, it is a personal goal to grow the following and activity of both social media platforms. In addition, there are plenty of policies that are in severe need of updating including committee bylaws, loan policies, gallery attendant’s handbook, general contracts, and not to forget the task of revaluing all the works of art in the collection too!
I am blessed with a team of eight amazing gallery attendants, who are student workers, and one curatorial intern, who are all under my direct supervision. They are from very different backgrounds (some are not even art or art administration majors) and they are the best part of my day. Working with the students is, of course, a given plus-side to a position at a College, as their excitement and enthusiasm are contagious. Shifting from the commercial gallery sector to the academic gallery setting affords some a fantastic change in gears that includes (aside from the obvious constant fixation on turning a profit) focusing curatorial projects on education, outreach, and art historical record. A few other super random perks obtained from going to academia (besides the laundry list of practical benefits the commercial gallery never afforded me like health, life, and disability insurances, plus a retirement plan), also besides I have cool perks such as a library, gym, and dining hall at work!
I was just recently interviewed by the Reading Eagle’s art critic for the local television station. I am looking forward to exploring my new region and will be actively looking for artists in Reading, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, D.C., and surrounding areas. Feel free to contact me if you would like me to see your work: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artforum “Alana J. Coates Appointed Curator of Albright College’s Freedman Gallery” September 4, 2018. https://www.artforum.com/news/alana-j-coates-appointed-curator-of-albright-college-s-freedman-gallery-76527
Zech, Brandon. “Alana Coates Appointed Curator of Albright College’s Freedman Gallery” Glasstire September 2, 2018. https://glasstire.com/2018/09/02/alana-coates-appointed-curator-of-albright-colleges-freedman-gallery/
Association of Academic Museums and Galleries “Albright College appoints Alana J. Coates as Freedman Gallery Curator” August 23, 2018. https://www.aamg-us.org/wp/albright-college-news/