Critical Art Writing Assignments


The second Banff International Curatorial Institute (BICI) Critical Art Writing Ensemble residency will explore once more art writing as an aspect of literature. Exhibition catalogues can expand into short novels and stories and reviews into haikus and soliloquies transcending the ephemerality of quotidian journalism.  Participants will contemplate and compose writing that will have the wetness of literature: narrative and poetic potential, emotional/political/spiritual/intellectual engagement, creative approaches to form, and highly distinctive points of view backboned by serious analysis.

What does the program offer?

Participants are encouraged to exchange writing and ideas among each other, and meet with the faculty to discuss their individual projects. This program is open to arts writers and curators who seek poetic expression, and desire a little space and a committed community in which to work. Reading groups, workshops, faculty talks and readings, and opportunities to share and develop your work are a part of this program.

Run in conjunction with Visual + Digital Arts BAIR Text residency with guest artist and master printmaker Jillian Ross of David Krut Projects, and Literary Arts Digital Narratives residency led by Eli Horowitz and Russell Quinn, participants in this BICI residency will have opportunities to engage with others working in the realms of journalism, print publishing, literature, art criticism, and art practice across The Banff Centre.

Who should apply?

This program is open to writers and curators exploring pertinent topics within visual arts and art criticism.  

About the Banff International Curatorial Institute (BICI)

The Banff International Curatorial Institute (BICI) encompasses a range of public activities including symposia, think-tanks, exhibitions, and publications. BICI also provides research based programs in the form of residencies and workshops, and practicum opportunities. BICI’s programs and activities serve the communities of curators, artists, researchers, writers, critics, philosophers, and other cultural producers at various stages of their careers. These programs offer ongoing professional development and complement degree granting curatorial programs by providing a venue to meet, explore, and continue research.

BICI's residency programs provide time and space for curators, critics, writers or artists to research innovative ideas. Participants have the opportunity to develop new projects within a supportive and nurturing creative environment, and foster collaborations resulting from direct interaction with faculty, peers, professional artists, and other disciplines.

  • Lauren Ross, who was the High Line in New York's first curator from 2009 to 2011, is hoping to elevate the level of arts criticism in town.

A former curator for the Institute for Contemporary Art wants to raise Richmond’s profile by cultivating more writers – specifically art critics.

With 1708 Gallery, Studio Two Three and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, Lauren Ross has launched the RVA Critical Art Writing Program to encourage new writers and publishing platforms in the Mid-Atlantic region.

For a fee of $250, six aspiring writers will be selected and paired with six established mentors from September to December – the deadline for submissions is this Friday, Aug. 18. Each of the six sessions will feature a different mentor who will provide writing assignments, one-on-one feedback and information about career paths.

For its inaugural year, fall mentors include Chris Vitiello, a writer in North Carolina and recipient of the inaugural Rabkin Prize for Arts Journalism, and Noah Simblist, a writer for Art Papers and the new chair of Painting and Printmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I want Richmond to be seen as a place to build a career and a desirable place to exhibit,” she explains. “No press coverage is disappointing to an artist, but when you give an exhibition coverage, suddenly the audience grows exponentially.”

Ross, who will serve as workshop leader and mentor, chose Richmond as the launch site because, she says, “I’ve fallen in love with Richmond. It’s a job that brought me here, but it’s gone away and I want to stay. The art infrastructure here is strong and in an exciting growth phase.” She declines to offer comment as to why she left her job as curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art.

Loosely based on similar writing programs, including Atlanta-based Burnaway’s Art Writer Mentorship Program, RVA Critical Art Writing will provide emerging talent with, as Ross explains it, “A little how-to – for example, how do you approach an editor or how can you improve your writing skills – while also encouraging people to self-publish.”

“One thread throughout the program will be discussing the differences between art description and true criticism,” Ross says. “I’m a believer in criticism, and criticism doesn’t mean being cruel. Criticism is much more sophisticated. It advances the dialogue in a critical way and goes beyond ‘I like this and I don’t like that.’ One of the disadvantages of living in a small community like Richmond is that there’s a reluctance to be too critical.”

Vitiello agrees. “When you're working outside of an art center like New York, you find a lack of understanding of what criticism is for. A preview piece that says what paintings are going to be hung where and when isn't a critical review,” he says. “I try to work in between a general and a critically-engaged art audience, so the leisure art-goer can bring a critical perspective without being alienated by art-speak, and the MFA crowd can remember that everyone gets to have substantial art experiences.”

Another disadvantage for Richmond is distance. “Although I work within a large arts community, I’m quite isolated as a critic,” Vitiello says. “We’re sort of far-flung through the Southeast and it’s hard to improve without a community of critics around you.”

Ross, however, hopes to remove the isolation. “Helping writers find their voices,” she says, “and seeing their bylines appear in print is what I consider a success. Ultimately, I hope to provide more open discussion and consideration of artistic practice in Richmond.”

The deadline for applications is Aug. 18 and you can find more details by going to this address:

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