by Sharon Litwin for NolaVie
It’s a long way from Alaska to Louisiana. But for Amy Mackie, the 30-something, newly-appointed Visual Arts Curator of the Contemporary Arts Center, who was born in Memphis, grew up in Anchorage, then stopped for a time in New York, Maryland, the Caribbean, and a number of places in between, it has been an adventure leading to the perfect job. She’s a tall, slim, high-energy gal, with long, dark hair and a bubbling personality. Already, she has fallen in love with her new home, so different, yet, in some ways to her, so much like her last port of call in New York, where she was a curatorial associate at the New Museum.
“Believe it or not, New Orleans is sort of like my corner of New York,” she explains, saying that with so many different spheres of interest in the Big Apple and so many different groups of people, she chose to make her “corner” one filled with artists and other creative friends. “Already, I’m surrounded by my kind of folk here.”
Mackie arrived at the CAC on January 18 and has hit the ground running ever since. She has the job of her dreams in a city unlike any other in the United States.
“It’s a place where people are obsessed with culture, however they define it,” she says. “Whether it’s food, music, contemporary art, it’s a unique city. I had been looking at curatorial positions all across the world. When I heard about this job posting and visited here, I just connected. It’s the artists, the culture and, yes, the weather!”
It’s not that Mackie didn’t like New York – she’s been there on and off since she went to university. It was, she says, just time for a move.
“I went to Sarah Lawrence from Anchorage and I didn’t know a single person in New York when I arrived,” she recalls. “But the moment I got there, I looked around and said, ‘This is so cool; this is my city.’”
And it was her city, all the way through college, where she vacillated between focusing on a career in theater or, for a while, wondering if she should be a writer. A few teaching positions upon graduation and some world travel preceded her return to the Big Apple for a master’s degree in Curatorial Studies at Bard College. Most recently, a fellowship researching the archives at the Henry Moore Institute in England fueled, she says, her “obsession” with learning more about the late artist Helen Chadwick.
So what’s on the horizon for the contemporary arts at the CAC?
“I’d like to work with some aspects of the community that could use some attention, to give younger artists in the city a platform,” Mackie says. “For example, that might be to focus on what’s going on in the St. Claude area. In terms of my personal interests, well, they’re pretty broad. I’m interested in works influenced by feminism and particularly interested in the relationship between painting, performance and dance. I’d like to develop relationships with the colleges and universities in New Orleans. I feel this is absolutely necessary and hope we can create panel discussions and exhibitions together.”
And the relationship between the CAC and the New Orleans Museum of Art?
“There’s a big difference between an institution founded by artists and one that has a collection,” Mackie says. “I am thrilled that Miranda Lash (NOMA Curator of Contemporary Art) is there. We’ve already met and are friends. And, while I am sure there will be times when there might be some overlap, in truth, we are very different kinds of institutions.”
Nolavie president Sharon Litwin writes Culture Watch every Tuesday.