Una Visión Internacional de Granada

Una Visión Internacional de Granada

By Nikki Chow, FCRH 2020

Only a few months before the pandemic hit Europe and the US, I was studying abroad in Granada, Spain in the Fall of 2019. While I was there I juggled my Spanish university classes and traveling, whilst also curating a student art exhibition at the well-known Centro Artístico, Literario y Científico de Granada (CALG), most popularly recognized for being the location where Federico Garcia Lorca exhibited his poems, and currently operating as a space for artists of all kinds to speak on and exhibit their art.

I promised this article back before college campuses shut down due to the pandemic, and I’m finally sending it out now, near the anniversary of the actual exhibition. I know it’s been almost a full year since I curated the exhibition, and COVID-19 has chewed and spit us all out, but I feel like putting my past experience in the context of this moment where I am now working as a TA for Fordham’s new ARHI Intro class, allowed me to take a step back from what happened and really try to view the work I did in as objective a manner as possible.

I wanted to mull over my experiences with it, and how it felt both deep and yet still shallow. On a surface level it’s an impressive feat for an undergraduate student with no previous experience in curating anything except the gallery wall in her bedroom, but I felt like I could have done more.

I entitled it: Una Visión Internacional de Granada, a very matter-of-fact name for a very straightforward concept.

The concept: Granada through the lens of international students.

If I could go back, I would have liked to provide more nuance, but I needed to work within my means, and within the very limited time frame I was given to piece this together. I had virtually no guidance since this was an idea that I came up with out of the blue.

I have always been interested in the curatorial sector of the art world, but I had never gotten the chance to directly participate in it in any meaningful way at an institution.

Professor Lamas connected me to the CALG after I inquired about any sort of arts-related internship while studying abroad (Fordham’s program mainly offers medical and business internships). When I met with the people in charge, we made polite conversation and I explained to them my previous experience in the art and museum sector. They were enthusiastic about me joining them, and I was under the impression that I would receive some tasks to accomplish for them, the menial work associated with most internships. However, as some time passed and I was hearing radio silence, I wondered what I was meant to be doing.

So, I scheduled a meeting with one of the people at the CALG, the event director. I asked him whether there was anything I could do to assist him, perhaps keeping inventory or helping with publicity. Essentially, he told me there was not much for me to do. It seemed as though I was at an impasse.

And then, he said to me, “puedes hacer lo que quieras,” and that was when it hit me. I was trying too hard to work in a box that didn’t exist. I was no intern, but I was an individual, one with a connection to a major art institution in Granada.

I proposed the idea of an exhibition to Professor Lamas in the most chaotic way possible: standing on a moving public bus. He must’ve thought I was insane; we were only a month and a half away from the end of the semester. In the beginning, I don’t think anyone actually believed I would go through with it to the extent that I did.

I did precursory research, devouring articles about how to curate exhibitions, any advice that curators had, and I grew to understand that curation is a loose term and that one does not require a large institution to be a curator.

I immediately got to work on flyers, asking for submissions from any students who were studying in Granada that weren’t native to the area. This was the official flyer I designed for the exhibition, the eagle drawn by my own hand.

I ended up with a total of 13 artists from various countries around the world, some of whom were from Fordham’s own Granada program. Due to the various talents of these artists, the exhibition was composed of art from various mediums ranging from photography to painting, to poetry.

My schedule leading up to the exhibition went something like this –>

In the mere weeks leading up to the exhibition date I felt like a chicken with its head cut off, I had completely lost my mind. To really add the cherry on top of a chaos sundae, when I received the confirmed exhibition dates from the CALG, I realized it nearly overlapped with my planned solo trip to Florence, and finals were rapidly approaching around the same time.

I was cutting things ridiculously close due to the late start time, and had it not been for the help of my roommate I don’t think it would have turned out the way it did. The second I came back from Florence I was supposed to pick up artworks from the artists, bring them to the gallery to stash, pick up wall plaques and the large-scale exhibition flyer from the printer shop. Thankfully, things worked themselves out, and I was able to finish everything on time.

I know it must seem kind of insane that I managed to even pull something together in this amount of time so I can’t really blame myself for not formulating a revolutionary exhibition but yet looking back I wish there was some way to make it into something more. If I had more time to work with I would have liked to add degrees of nuance to the exhibition that just weren’t there. Or if possible, perhaps even an entirely different focus. But as it stood I worked with what was within my limits and what I had access to as a student studying abroad in an unfamiliar environment.

I mostly concerned myself with the actual material problems I had to deal with like running to print shops for the wall labels, recruiting all the artists, keeping in direct contact with all the artists and the art center, designing and distributing all the publicity, reserving the exhibition space, setting up the pieces in the space, all while in a foreign country, to really let myself sit and think about the theoreticals of my exhibition. I guess this is why curating a good exhibition usually takes years and entire teams. But I can say fondly that I was not completely alone in my efforts.

I’m still very grateful to those who encouraged me and helped make this exhibition even a possibility, that being: the director of Fordham Granada’s study abroad program Professor Lamas, all the artists who took me seriously and actually submitted their artwork for the exhibition, my host parents, Clara and Alejandro, my roommate Sam, and my best friend in Granada Lynnette. They were all integral to the completion of this exhibition.

As I sit here writing this I’m struck by my memories of Granada, most especially walking the streets of the Albaicín as the sun set over the white square homes, and the varied stone streets that met each step I took. The upwards hilly route I had to take to get there. My daily commute through the center of Granada to get to school and home. The smell of my host mom’s lentil soup waiting for me after morning classes. Sitting in bars with friends eating tapas and drinking tinto de verano while night fell.

At the time of this posting, I am halfway through the last semester of my undergraduate life, and I look back fondly at this chaotic time. Thinking about the pieces that had to fall in place in order for everything to work out the way it did still astounds me, especially in light of the pandemic. What I was able to accomplish then and the complete impossibility of something like that now is something I still think about. Mirroring the last minute-ness of the exhibition is the fact that I was able to get through my study abroad experience right before the beginning of lockdown.

The work for this exhibition was incredibly fulfilling, despite the intense amount of duress I was under. In the end everything felt worthwhile, yet I was left with a lingering feeling of wanting more. This exhibition was a total amateur hour, but I hope that this can act as an interesting origin story for a future career in the art world.

Anyway, I’m sure you were all waiting for what the exhibition really looked like. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the exhibition opening:

And here is a walkthrough of the exhibition before opening night: 

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