Heather Jones: You have a Master of Arts in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. Can you tell us a little more about your background? How did you arrive at curating as your chosen career field?
Julie Niemi: I’ve been interested in organizing events ever since I was a teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It took me a while to realize that curating was a thing, a career I could actually do, until I was a student of Arts Management at Columbia College Chicago. While in Chicago, I started actively looking at art and writing reviews. After I graduated from Columbia, I moved to Los Angeles and started a magazine, VIA Publication, which really sparked my interest in curating and eventually landed me a job at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In 2015, I made the decision to move from doing primarily administrative work in a museum/gallery context to focusing on studies surrounding curatorial practice. This interest lead me to pursue my graduate studies at CCS Bard in the fall of 2015, where I graduated in May of 2017, and co-ran The Barn, a project space in the Hudson River Valley. Since I left Bard, I still am a member of a the curatorial collective, Anne-Marie, which I formed as a graduate student.
HJ: I understand you have a vested interest in publishing practices in the arts, and have held an editorial role as several journals including aCCeSsions at Bard College and VIA Publication. How do you view the relationship between writing/publishing and curating?
JN: I am really interested in how editing and organizing a publication – whether digital or print – can be a curatorial project. I am invested in research-based archival exhibitions that connect broader social and political histories to contemporary art and media practices. I view this as a heavily editorial-based research process, where it boils down to research, processing, and editing down information. This has certainly progressed since the time of running VIA, which, along with five other editors, was a project invested in, and concerned with, understanding the developing artistic terrain of LA. The process all really boils down to how the research and work needs to get done in regards to what the object of interest is that I am looking at.
HJ: In previous conversations, you’ve expressed a vested interest in alternative educational models. Can you tell us more about your research?
JN: In my most recent research, I looked into a minor history of an anarchist college that was nested within a larger state-funded institution. This took the form of a research project, which was developed through a book and exhibition on Tolstoy College, an anarchist educational community active at the University at Buffalo in the 1970s and ‘80s. For me, this case-study of Tolstoy College was the ideal investigation into themes of radical, alternative, education models I was interested in, specifically active in the United States. This came into fruition within my thesis project, titled Studies from the Bottom Up. I am still working on continued research on this topic, which I hope to turn into a further- researched book on the topic in the next few years.