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Haley Pierce, a master’s candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts (IFA), was drawn to the work of artists Anna Marchisello and Phoebe Louise Randall, both seniors in Steinhardt’s BFA in studio art program. Their work gave Pierce the opportunity to juxtapose two different styles and personalities, which she used to curate the gallery exhibition Way Out / Away Out. 

Curatorial Collaborative Photo: Red Painting

Pierce, Marchisello, and Randall are part of a unique NYU partnership that pairs graduate art history students from the IFA with Steinhardt studio art undergraduates, culminating in a series of student-produced exhibitions.

Now in its third year, NYU’s Curatorial Collaborative gives the IFA—traditionally known for its expertise in conservation and art history—direct access to working contemporary artists. 

“Only at NYU do you have a world-class art history program and a vibrant undergraduate studio art program working hand in hand like this,” says Jesse Bransford, chair of Steinhardt’s Department of Art and Art Professions.

Through the partnership, IFA students gain experience curating a show with living contemporary artists—perhaps many years before they would have an opportunity to curate their own exhibition in New York City’s thriving yet competitive museum and gallery scene. And for BFA students, working with a budding curator can give them new perspective on their work. “This experience forced me to see my work differently, as something being exhibited for people other than artists,” Randall says.  

The Curatorial Collaborative dovetails with a new honors program for select BFA seniors, who are chosen to conceive and realize two-person exhibitions curated by IFA students. The student-driven collaboration spans the better part of a year, with curators visiting the artists’ studios to develop a relationship and, ultimately, their exhibitions. 

Curatorial Collective Photo: Two Yellow Scrolls

Unlike other studio art programs, where professors curate student shows, the Curatorial Collaborative puts the onus on the students to bring the exhibitions to life. The curators work one-on-one with the artists, while faculty and administrators play a supporting role.

Curatorial Collective Photo: Black and White Photo

This semester, six exhibitions resulted from the partnership—five two-person projects at Steinhardt’s 80WSE Gallery and a larger thematic group show in the Barney Building. The shows are documented in a series of printed publications with essays written by IFA curators and contextualized with reproductions of the artists’ work. A series of panel discussions and symposia are also held throughout the semester to celebrate the exhibitions and foster a dialogue about the art. 

“The classical rift in the art world between curator and artist often resides in the valley between theory and practice,” says Ian Cooper, Steinhardt senior studio program coordinator. “The Curatorial Collaborative geographically and figuratively connects uptown with downtown and downtown with uptown.”