Curator for the Art Galleries at TCU.
Sara-Jayne Parsons. (photo by Carolyn Cruz)
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Parsons accepted the position in August 2014 after serving as exhibitions curator at an art center in Liverpool, England. Previously, she was the assistant director of the art galleries at the University of North Texas in Denton.
How would you describe what you do at TCU?
I am responsible for managing both of our university galleries. We have the Fort Worth Contemporary Art Space and the Moudy Gallery in the School of Art. I manage the spaces, organize exhibitions and work with faculty to make sure our students are given the best opportunities to engage with contemporary art.
Given that you’ve worked at two universities – one public and one private – what sets TCU apart from other university galleries?
The one guiding factor is the commitment of the faculty to reach out and create opportunities for students. The facilities and the resources that we have here at TCU are some of the best that I’ve come across in my work both in the states and in Europe. Our location in Fort Worth and our faculty/staff assist our students with making connections in a professional environment. Through internships and galleries in the area, there are a lot of opportunities. I think TCU is ideally placed in Fort Worth to give our students that experience and that has been one of the things that has really stood out to me in my two years here.
“Over the years we’ve had amazing donors who have given a lot of artwork to TCU, and it’s our job to make sure we’re taking care of it.”Sara-Jayne Parsons
TCU is a very community-oriented place, so how have you been able to use both art spaces to engage students and the community?
The contemporary space is much more of the accessible, public-facing space, in addition to the Moudy Gallery, which is a luxury not all university galleries have. You can come to the TCU campus and see contemporary artwork by an internationally known artist. Then you can take a seven-minute walk to the Moudy Gallery and see work produced by some of our senior students. You’re able to see this amazing range of contemporary art, which is very unique to TCU.
How often do the exhibitions change in the galleries?
For the 2016-17 school year, we have 16 shows scheduled between the two galleries.
And how far in advance do you have to schedule to make that many shows happen?
I like to stay two years ahead when planning exhibitions. I’m already talking with an artist about an exhibition for the 2020 school year.
As for the TCU Permanent Art Collection, which you also are responsible for cataloging, if you could only choose one, what is the must-see piece in the collection?
I would say the Andy Warhol prints in the contemporary space. I think most people would be surprised to know that we have prints by such a well-known artist.
There are students who haven’t seen much contemporary art. Where would you recommend that an art novice go to get a good start?
There are so many wonderful spaces in the area: The Amon Carter Museum, the Kimbell Art Museum, but I would have to go with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The staff there is very welcoming and extremely knowledgeable about the artwork. For someone just beginning, the educational opportunities and the atmosphere of the Modern would fit well. There are also quite a few smaller contemporary spaces around town that showcase great work too.
You’re around quite a bit of art every day, but what would you say is your favorite medium?
Both sculpture and photography. Minimal sculpture, specifically, and photography that really challenges itself.
How would you describe the TCU Permanent Art Collection to someone who has never seen it?
That’s such a great question, because even two years in … (chuckles), I’m still trying to figure it out. I can tell you that there are lots of prints. We have some wonderful works by well-known Texas artists and Fort Worth artists that are really great to have in the collection. It’s really great to have works of art by students who have recently – and not so recently – graduated. Then we have works by people like Andy Warhol. So, we’re still trying to figure out how this collection came about and how to describe it. Over the years we’ve had amazing donors who have given a lot of artwork to TCU, and it’s our job to make sure we’re taking care of it. But a big part of the description of the collection is that it’s active. Our students are working with and using the collection as inspiration and part of their work.
— Donald Griffin
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