Section: Arts

Kenyon artist alums kick butt with Kickstarter project

by Gabrielle Bing

Emily Sussman ’15 and Harrison Curley ’15 have decided to take their futures into their own hands, launching a pop-up art gallery on the Lower East Side of New York City. The duo used the popular crowd-funding site Kickstarter to finance the project.

Reaching their $3,000 goal on Kickstarter in less than two weeks has allowed Sussman and Curley to secure a pop-up gallery space located on Orchard Street called Chinatown Soup, as well as finance installation necessities and advertisements. The show will run Jan. 12-19, 2016.

After graduation, the two scored internships relevant to their creative career interests in New York: Curley at ArtBinder, a startup digital platform that compiles works for art galleries, and Sussman at the Museum of Modern Art and distinguished art spaces David Zwirner and Yossi Milo Galleries. Both graduates, however, struggled to find footing in gaining entry-level positions, and quickly learned that one of the most enchanting cities in the world can also be the most intimidating.

“It feels like you’re sending résumés out into the void,” Curley said. “When you reach out … it’s like, ‘No, this entry-level job is for somebody that has been working for three years.’”

Finding the balance between idealism and pragmatism is necessary to achieve a creative goal.

The pop-up is set to feature artists under the age of 25 who attend or recently graduated from high-ranking universities and art schools. Three Kenyon graduates will be included: Curley, Ashley Thompson ’15 and Cat Raynor ’15.

Sussman and Curley, along with Sussman’s roommate Elise Rise, a recent Princeton University graduate, will act as curators and exhibitors. 

Curley, Sussman and Rise hope the experience they gain through curating the exhibition will not only help them develop meaningful skills for future jobs, but also give exposure to artists they truly believe in and relate to.

“There is something intensely satisfying about advocating for artists who do have that formalized training,” Sussman said. “Especially at this age, when most of these artists that do have formalized training are really trying to push their own work to the next level.”

Sussman and Harrison’s experiences as Gund Gallery associates and the influential relationships formed with their professors have driven the pursuit of their goals in New York City.

“I’ve had some incredible, incredible professors … that really helped me solidify my passion,” Curley said. “Working at the Gund Gallery gave me experience in the academic side of showing art and how to write and speak properly.”

Professor of Art Claudia Esslinger recognized in Curley and Sussman qualities that are key to success after graduation: drive, energy and focus.

“The idea of having energy and being sort of self-initiating to an idea, that’s really the primary thing,” Essinger said. “It’s surprisingly rare. Here’s an example of Kenyon students taking the initiative.”


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