Curating With the Community in the New Year

For over ten years, the GLBT Historical Society Museum has been a showcase for LGBTQ history, art and culture. Among our most beloved initiatives has been our Community Curator Program. This program invites members of the public, historians and curators to develop exhibitions under the guidance of GLBT Historical Society curatorial staff. As the society’s director of exhibitions and museum experience, I’m pleased to announce that after temporarily suspending the program in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have now launched a new format for our Community Curator Program!

Varied Approaches

Interest in community-curation models has grown dramatically in the museum and curatorial world over the past decade. Since we first swung open the doors to the GLBT Historical Society Museum in the Castro in 2011, about half of our temporary exhibitions have been conceived and curated by members of the public. Community curation has enabled us to mount unique exhibitions that reflect a wider variety of interests, approaches and topics than would otherwise have been possible.

In 2016, for instance, Julián Delgado Lopera and Ángel Rafael Vázquez-Concepción curated an exhibition exploring the concept of ambiente(“environment”)  in the LGBTQ Latinx community. In 2017, artist and professor E.G. Crichton invited LGBTQ artists to create new artworks inspired by past issues of OUT/LOOK, a historic periodical of the late 1980s and early 1990s held in the society’s archives. And in 2019 Melissa Hawkins’s thirty-year-old photographs depicting bars and parties in the SoMa neighborhood formed the core of an exhibition about culture and resilience in the nightlife world during the worst years of the AIDS crisis.

A More Structured Process

While we temporarily paused new in-person exhibition proposals in 2020 and 2021, the break provided an opportunity for us to evaluate the program, identifying both strengths and areas for improvement. We have now updated and relaunched the program, providing a more structured application process, a revised set of timelines, clearer expectations and better support. These changes are designed to assist prospective curators in crafting strong proposals and further developing their professional skills in the process.

In line with the society’s Five Year Strategic Plan, adopted in 2021, we are especially looking forward to receiving exhibition proposals that focus on people with disabilities; people and communities of color; Native American/Indigenous people and communities; lesbians and women; and bisexual, transgender and gender-nonconforming or nonbinary people and communities. To support this goal, the new exhibition application form will be available year round. We welcome and will consider all proposals that demonstrate alignment with our mission.

Since 1985, the GLBT Historical Society has been a labor of love rooted in the LGBTQ community, and our museum has likewise sought to embody the society’s community-centered roots. This is your museum. We hope you’ll participate in the curatorial process.

To learn more about the Community Curator Program,please visit our new webpage, where you will find extensive information. The application form is available on that page and will be accepting proposals from January 10. And finally, I’m always available to answer your questions!