De Nichols, a St. Louis-based multidisciplinary designer, civic leader and “artivist,” talks about:

Getting her job as the community engagement manager at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which evolved into a position dedicated to determining how an institution becomes a better neighbor to its community; the controversy(ies) around Kelley Walker’s show “Direct Drive” at CAM St. Louis, which opened in early Sept. 2016—everything from De’s take on the artworks beforehand and what she liked vs. what she found distasteful, and how she felt offended by the notion to come from how pieces featuring black women were going to be displayed, which she shared with the curator; to the climactic event of the artist lecture Walker gave alongside the curator, which in the Q&A session went remarkably wrong, and included gaslighting which left many in audience cold, disconcerted, and/or upset…and in De’s case, livid; how the curator, rather than helping Walker to communicate what he was unable to in response to various questions about race and misogyny, instead protected the artist and in turn shut the conversation down; how after the talk, De felt ashamed for being somehow complicit – as a museum educator – in a toxic experience; how as a community engagement person on staff, she got flak from both sides: the museum people and the people in the audience who wanted her to apologize for things getting so tense; how, through the fallout from that event she faced an internal crisis which led to her eventually leaving her post at the museum, and the thought process that led her to finally resign; the positive aspect of the effect on CAM, in the form of greater sensitivity and strategy going forward in a period where it’s going to be needed even more; she offers both advice and suggestions for artists to be culturally sensitive about the work they make and where they show it, and how they can become active in this changing political climate, including 100 Days of Action, the artist-run PAC For Freedoms, and The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (which is not a government organization despite what it sounds like).  While a video of the Kelley Walker artist talk and Q&A is not available, you can view a panel discussion response to that event, which took place at CAM as part of the series Critical Conversations, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhFClenTaL4


Art, fashion and pop culture writer and art history lecturer William J. Simmons talks about:

Why he repurposes Instagram memes for Tweets, one of which led to our initial connection; how he studied initially under the October magazine people (a journal of particularly arcane art content), and how he came to realize that there has to be a way to combine the important advances theory has made with a populist theory of how people actually interact with art; how his editors at general interest-based outlets including Flaunt, Interview and W magazines have things to say that are equally if not more insightful than the people at Artforum; how he told a guy he was on a first date with that his goal was to be the editor-in-chief of Vogue and also the e-i-c of October; how he saves up to go to biennials and art fairs as opposed to taking third-party funds to pay his tickets; his role in bringing a substantive role to the conversation through his writing, whether it’s artists or pop cultural figures (he did an interview with Jessica Chastain, among other big names); what goes on at the high-powered art magazines, including half the time hating what they’re writing about; how artists don’t have privileged access to the meaning of their own work; admitting that he writes about canonical artists, because he feels he can do better there than writing about non-canonical artists, and because it’s a way of getting into the larger conversation through his writing; his seminal artist interview experiences, including with Sue de Beer and Jack Pierson; and we have a hearty – impassioned while civil – debate over whether artists (including particularly Marilyn Minter, Deb Kass and Laurie Simmons) shape the larger culture and the world, as opposed to the influence and effects of their work being confined to art and the art world; the exchange also includes calling into question certain sexist tendencies towards successful women artists vs. men artists, being an activist through art and otherwise, and ultimately ends on a light-hearted yet very pointedly pro-feminist agenda.