AWAD is delighted to share the first guest blog post of 2022. Christine O’Donnell is a member of the AWAD NYC chapter. She is the director and curator of Beacon Gallery located in Boston Ma.

Practicing What We Preach at Beacon Gallery

Beacon Gallery is a social justice-focused art gallery, but it’s sometimes hard to know what that really means. As the director and curator, I’ve focused on themes that I want to present to a larger audience, such as immigration, sexual violence and identity.

We work hard to create an atmosphere of accessibility, fostering creativity rather than elitism. That said, the constraints of a commercial space sometimes make it difficult to fully manifest our principle.

With that in mind, in late 2019 I created a nonprofit and registered 501c3 currently named Beacon Gallery Consulting. This nonprofit is dedicated to diversifying art leadership through education and hands-on experiential learning. One of the pillars (in addition to educational experiences and funding paid institutional internships) is a program for emerging curators.

Our Current Show’s Role

Putting together Caron Tabb’s show Humanity Is Not A Spectator Sport (on view through January 17, 2022) offered an opportunity to integrate Beacon Gallery Consulting’s curatorial development program with our exhibition program.

Tina Chéry (L) and Christine O’Donnell (R) in front of Caron Tabb’s Sacrifice Of Our Isaacs, 64 x 66, Mixed Media, 2021.
Photo Credit: The Chptrs Project, Nathaniel Burks

Tabb’s conceptual mixed media work is rooted in her own self-reflection, particularly around privilege and opportunity. Pieces such as Tabb’s “Justice Vessels’’ make a meaningful statement. As Cate McQuaid from the Boston Globe states, “Tzedakah Box for Tina’’ honors Chaplain Clementina M. Chéry, who lost her 15-year-old son to a stray bullet in Dorchester in 1993 and went on to found the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in his name. The box rises like a phoenix from a nest of scorched branches, grace springing from pain and grief.” At the same time, Tabb offers examples of others’ activism meant to inspire viewers. Therefore she and I felt it important to lead by action.

Caron Tabb. Justice Vessels: “Tzedakah Box for Tina’’ Mixed Media, 16″ X 16″ X 22″  2021. Photo Credit: Julia Featheringill

Sharing Space

Concretely, this has meant that Tabb has given up some of her show’s wall space. In its place is a “show within a show” featuring a series of local artists. This mini-exhibition is the first of our curatorial series for our nonprofit. Entitled What Now; Making Space and curated by the artist and activist known as Meclina, this show is both proof-of-concept and works to bring attention and exposure to artists and their important messages.

The first two artists we showcased as part of What Now; Making Space were Nayana LaFond and Kamil Peters. Their works, painting and metalwork sculpture, respectively, offered a counterpoint to Tabb’s work both visually and as part of the overarching message.

OGUN. Kamil Peters. OGUN. Mixed Media. 44 x 18.
Meclina and Nayana LaFond. Photo Credit: Meclina. 
Nayana LaFond, Shayla in Red, Acrylic on Canvas, 40 x 30, 2021

Practicing What We Preach

This foray into using Beacon Gallery’s walls to make a statement has felt exciting. Visually manifesting some of our principles of making space for others and pushing boundaries into new curatorial paradigms has been challenging yet rewarding. We try to ensure we are not just paying lip service to social justice or offering performative activism, which is a common pitfall in the art world. This exhibition is simply the first step towards creating meaningful experiences for those emerging in the arts. We are excited about the plans we have in store. Please check out our event link. As well as the artists’ videos on YouTube.

Please stay in touch by joining our mailing list. For anyone interested in learning more please don’t hesitate to reach out. I can be reached at [email protected] and would be delighted to talk!

What Now; Making Space – a conversation between Artist Nayana LaFond and exhibition curator Meclina
What Now; Making Space – Interview with Kamil Peters