Contemporary art and the presentation of it has traditionally been a class-based endeavor. The Wexner Center for the Arts is trying to change that through its programs and the type of work that they present. I spoke with Johanna Burton, the Center’s Executive Director about what the Wexner Center is and how you should view it, how to convince people to expose themselves to the arts, the importance of being a multi-disciplinary laboratory, and how they are pivoting in this time.
- Wexner Center for the Arts
- Johanna Burton
- New Museum
- Keith Haring
- Bebe Miller episode
- Wex WOSU collaboration
- Dionne Custer Edwards
- Ann Hamilton
- Counterfeit Madison episode
- Mark Lomax episode
- 15th & High
- Climate Changing exhibition
- Free Sundays
This Confluence Cast episode is sponsored by Art Makes Columbus, Columbus Makes Art, featuring stories about our city’s incredible artists — stories full of inspiration, challenge, passion, and success. For videos, articles, an up-to-the-minute calendar of events, and an artist directory visit ColumbusMakesArt.com, the resource for all things arts and culture in the capital city.
Tim Fulton 00:11
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. This week, contemporary art and the presentation of it has traditionally been a class based endeavor. The Wexner Center for the Arts is trying to change that through their programs and the type of work that they present. I spoke with Johanna Burton, the center’s executive director about what the Wexner Center is and how you should view it, how to convince people to expose themselves to the arts, the importance of being a multidisciplinary laboratory, and how they’re pivoting in this time. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast calm. Also, the confluence cast is on Patreon. Find out how to support this podcast on our website the confluence cast calm firstname.lastname@example.org slash Confluence. The Confluence cast is sponsored this week by art makes Columbus Columbus makes art, featuring stories about our city’s incredible artists, stories full of inspiration, challenge, passion and success. For videos, articles, an up to the minute calendar of events and an artist directory visit Columbus makes art.com the resource for all things arts and culture in the capital city. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here virtually with Johanna Burton, the executive director of the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University. Joanna How are you?
Johanna Burton 01:54
I’m great, Tim, how are you? Thank you so much for having me today.
Tim Fulton 01:57
No, absolutely. First of all, for those that don’t know, who had been sitting under a rock for the past 30 years, give sort of the the elevator pitch of what is the Wexner Center for the Arts?
Johanna Burton 02:09
Well, everyone should know. But now, just now, the Wexner Center for the Arts is a multidisciplinary Art Center. It is a non collecting institution that’s been around for 32 years, we were we opened our doors in 1989. Something that I often forget to say but I want to make sure I say here is well other institutions, I think over that time have really become more multidisciplinary have thought more about the the kind of intersection between and even transposition between disciplines, think ours remains one of the few at least in America that still thinks about these disciplines as equal and, and also really kind of tries very hard to, to bring them together and in discussions around the disciplines, but also between the disciplines. And we are the only such entity on a university campus, which I find really interesting. Because we are a laboratory and follow that mandate.
Tim Fulton 03:09
And just to give context for the audience, when you say the multiple disciplines, you are talking about visual art, you’re talking about performing arts, you’re talking about film and video, you’re talking about public programs even
Johanna Burton 03:22
less. It’s great, you say that. So I think we’ve always talked about ourselves as three arms, the ones that are performing arts exhibitions and film video, we have changed. Not surprisingly, given my background, what had been the education department is now learning and public practice and it is considered a fourth and equal programming arm. For the reasons that you started to slide into I think it education I think more and more is being understood as not the thing that explains what else is happening in a museum but as an equal partner in producing ideas and, and really being able to animate audiences in ways that I think are increasingly important. So yes, so now we are a forearmed. Beast.
Tim Fulton 04:03
Excellent. And talk about your background and what brought you to the Wex.
Johanna Burton 04:06
Sure. So I was trained as an art historian and sort of assumed I would teach and write which I have done, but quickly realized that as much as I enjoyed thinking historically and in the in the present, I also more than anything, wanted to work with living artists, living artists are paving the way always and following their lead enables you to think about ideas before they even become fully codified, I think in the culture. So I found my way into some sort of hybrid positions. In the last that I was in prior to coming to the West was at the new Museum in New York, which is an institution that has a lot of affinities with the West. So similar history. It’s a little bit older, but was also really dedicated to living artists, to the social kind of impact made by an artist and and there I was the catering director of education and public engagement. and I both curated and did all the community outreach and public engagement. So I knew from that platform, which I was able to really kind of choreograph in certain ways over the seven years, I was there that I would love to do the same for a larger institution. And so when the job at the West came up, I jumped at the chance to come and lead the institution into the next era. Can you
Tim Fulton 05:25
talk through sort of what priorities you bring into your your bio on the website makes it very clear that you’re interested in talking about issues of diversity interested in? I’m gonna go ahead and say leaning on art in order to facilitate discussions, and you talked about that, in terms of what I think of from my past there, as public programs. Talk about sort of the the conversations that you’re interested in having and the priorities that you have around that?
Johanna Burton 05:54
Absolutely. So my priorities are as somebody who again comes at, at artistic practice and and artists, as spaces for conversation, to really think about the wax, maybe less as a I mean, it is it’s a presenting institution, right? You come and you see a film and you come and you see a performance, you come to exhibitions. But what’s special about a place like the wax, which is a non collecting institution, the resources are really much more, I think, for me, at least, kind of interestingly, put towards the artist in real time. So what does it mean to commission somebody to, to make something without knowing exactly what it is before you, you commit to saying it’s gonna go on your walls? So I’m thinking, you know, we’ve used the word laboratory for many years to describe the wax? And how do you take that to its full conclusion and think about it through a kind of lens of ethics and equity, transparency, and really think about the museum as a place that that goes, sort of that changes its audience and is changed by its audience. So in the next few years, I think what we’re aiming for is to really honor this idea of both education, we’re on a college campus, but also laboratory in the sense that we’re inviting artists in at various stages in their career to do things that maybe they wouldn’t have the agency to do elsewhere. And it’s not so much about giving them license to fail, but more licensed to not have to know exactly what something will look like. So the aim, I think, and one of the reasons that I loved the wax, when I first heard about it, is to go back to a model where you invite an artist and and you commit to each other for six months, or nine months or two years, or whatever it takes. And you invite the audience into that space. A lot of people find contemporary art to be really kind of challenging, and and in many cases, I think, feel that it’s not for them, when in fact, I think contemporary art is the most poised of any sort of era, to be in discussion with, with everybody. I mean, it really is about reflecting on on what’s happening in the world. But to make that really clear, I think you have to pull the veils off and really ask people to join in. So my priorities have a lot to do with really thinking about contemporary art as a space that generative and generous and welcoming. At the same time as difficult. I’m not saying that you can’t find yourself in a situation where you’re uncomfortable. I think a lot of times people will be but that there’s a space for that and that it is really about learning and growing in in a kind of joined and communal space.
Tim Fulton 08:37
Yeah, I think a little bit here about in times that I’ve interviewed artists from the Wexner Center specifically I’m thinking about BB Miller. Yeah. And the the conversation for me, not with no dance background, other than having written press releases about it, trying to have a conversation about how should somebody who has not viewed contemporary dance before view it. And I’ll link the conversation in the show notes. It’s a it’s a wonderful conversation. The other thing I think about is sort of coming down off the pedestal a little bit. While it the art world can be viewed from the outside as like, that’s not for me, because I am, I am just a person, I am just a person here functioning within my life. And if you come down and sort of offer up this is how to take this in or this is what it’s related to or this is what it’s speaking to. You can grow those audiences
Johanna Burton 09:33
right. No, BB is a great example. And I watched some of your your discussion with her and I had lunch with her not long ago with Ann Hamilton on a on a similar podcast that we’ve been doing and, and it’s a great it’s, I think what you’re pointing to is really important, which is there are very specific technical ways that one can look at, say dance, and that is an audience that I think we also want to you know, it’s not like everybody should have the same skill set or vocabulary or language. But somebody like BB what’s so amazing about her and she’s a great person to point to is she can speak that language of having gone through, you know, training she’s very well steeped in and the kind of language and history of modernist and postmodernist dance at the same time that she’s talking about embodiment, and, and feeling and into relationality. And you can, and sometimes actually, what’s so wonderful is maybe that’s where you enter, and you think, Oh, my God, this is the thing I’ve been waiting for. And then you go further, and you can access these other layers. So it’s something that I’m always really hoping is clear when I’m talking about accessibility is, that doesn’t mean everyone has the same experience it that you can meet multiple experiences, through practices that understand the world through a kind of multifocal lens. And I think that’s where the multidisciplinarity is interesting. We shouldn’t have four separate audiences, we can have audiences who may be really devoted to film video. But what if they then walk through the gallery while they’re waiting for the film to start, and that’s, I think, a really extraordinary and interesting way that we can become more accessible. But again, I think we have work to do to convince people that that we want, they want, we want them to come through our doors, and we want them to, to have a moment of an unknowing that we can meet them, meet them there.
Tim Fulton 11:27
And this is the point in the episode where I say full disclosure, I used to work at the Wexner Center, because I think I’m obligated to do that. Talk about how do you foster that right as the director, how do you foster these frankly, silos? Yeah. From a curatorial standpoint, how do you foster sort of that interdisciplinary work between those mediums?
Johanna Burton 11:55
It’s interesting. So we’re starting to I can’t I don’t have an answer. And we’re working. I think what’s interesting is, I think it’s more of a structural approach than anything that has to do with the content. So, for instance, this will seem like I’m not answering your question, but but I am, when I began, the institution, like many had, had, and still has a hierarchy. But I, but I changed that from being a director and Deputy Director to more of a C suite model, where there’s a cabinet of both head, the top administrators and the and the department heads from each programmatic area. And the hope, right is that we’re all in these rooms talking about the institution as a whole. And then that also becomes the way a way of working across departments. So interestingly, again, what we now call LPP, which was education now as learning and public practice, headed by Dan Custer, Edwards, was naturally a kind of, you know, one of those programs that did move between the other programs, which is why ironically, it’s often sidelined and not thought about as its own program is it’s an intentional inter Weaver. Well, we’re trying to have more and more of those spaces, where people are talking about their ideas and Mattox arise, it’s really challenging because people have been trained, and I don’t mean at the West, I just mean in culture and in the world, to be really proprietary to want to author things to protect their resources. So siloing happens where even in an institution that’s as porous and flexible as the lexx. You know, people worry, I think more about what they’re going to lose and what they gain. And I think we’re shifting some of that through things like the change in how the leadership ships, C suite works, but also things like, we were talking about this before the episode, we’re now doing trainings for all staff on how a budget is made, how philanthropy works, what an endowment is, how we pick our how budgets are built, and and we have to start doing that out of necessity when we had major budget cuts over the last year, as many museums have. So that there was, while there was bad news, there was also an understanding across the center. And I think that that translates or I hope it translates to things like programming also, when we’re thinking about how to work maybe in different ways, and of course, capitalism has figured this out, you just read about the Zappos. Zappos works, right? Everybody cross trains, and everybody you know, you can change. By the way, I say to some somewhat ironically, but I also think it’s interesting that we are the spaces of creative, we’re supposed to be the spaces that model this behavior. And I think we’re what we’re very behind infrastructurally.
Tim Fulton 14:32
Yeah, well, and I think about sort of, you know, we are recording this virtually, primarily because of the time that we’re living in. And I think about how important it is to empower your people with information. Right. Like you said, there’s bad news. Yeah, but here’s why. It feels like folks who are in higher up positions, want to guard information. Rather than democratize it, and let people know, here’s why the decisions that have been made have been made. And I just want to give you a little bit of kudos for doing that. So,
Johanna Burton 15:15
think what it is, is it’s about, you know, asking for, and again, I think this is what’s so interesting about this moment is we have to build a different kind of institution. I mean, if you look around the nation, right now, museums are not faring well. And I mean, that both in terms of they’re shutting people are very quickly realizing that the the structures of funding are really precarious. But also, you know, staffs and institutional, you know, the kind of paradigms of how they’re run are being questioned in really profound ways. And, and, you know, part of the reason that we again started to roll out this, this model of engaging staff was because there was bad news, but also because there was good news, which is that cultural spaces can shift and transfigure and transform. And it’s not just through the programming, it’s through the way that you structure, you structure a staff and, and make sure that people feel like they are part of a mission and part of part of an institutional mandate. Another part of that that’s very big, and we are hardly alone, is we’re really hoping to think through dei diversity, equity inclusion, you know, all of the all of the questions accessibility around, not only who comes to your museum and who you serve, but what is the cultural space that you create, in order to make that possible. And so I’ve been working very closely, you know, across staff, but really, with, again, I’ll name Dionne Custer, Edwards has been doing a lot of this work for the 15 years that she’s been at the works in a different position. And we’re starting to assemble, we have begun to assemble a small Working Group, at the Wex of staff, a community thought partner group, and then we’re working with, with both sort of local and international partners who do this work, because it feels like everything’s an equity question question down to, you know, how you interview people to, you know, of course pay and, and the kind of work that’s done. So, I think there will be growing pains. I mean, I feel that myself, I’ve been dedicated to this work for my entire life, but I still feel like I’m, you know, daily reminded of my blind spots. But we’ve we’ve decided that this will be an institutional mandate. And that hopefully, again, as we’re moving forward, that will enable a platform that feels that feels like it’s a good place to work from, and also last for artists maybe to work, even with even more support.
Tim Fulton 17:53
And so being welcoming not just to a hate this term, non traditional audiences, but being also open to non traditional artists, let’s stop saying non traditional, let’s say, let’s say, a more diverse audience, a more diverse group of artists, and a more diverse staff, in order to bring in that, frankly, diversity of ideas,
Johanna Burton 18:17
right. And it’s hard work. Because I think, especially with a place like the WebEx I want to give credit where credit is due to the the years that preceded me, the programming has actually been exemplary and really kind of showing, and centering voices from many different, you know, global globally, in terms of gender, in terms of race, in terms of sexuality, and these issues that are really pressing ones coming forward through the voices of artists, but it also means that a lot of a lot of the kind of pressure and the labor is placed on those artists instead of the institution and and the work often. I think we’re seeing this more and more with the debates that are going on right now. It’s like, well, if you just point to the artists that that you’re that you’ve asked, or that you’ve allowed or that you’ve asked that, you know, brought in to do the work, you aren’t you may not be doing the work yourself. And so I think that’s an that’s come up. It’s, and I’m not saying that there’s been a terrible history of this at the works. But I think that all museums are realizing, you know, it’s a it’s a class based, so very class based profession that we’re in, and we have to be thinking about what that means. I am not from a wealthy background, I come from a very, very emphasize this very modest background in rural Nevada. And yet I wanted to be part of the arts. And what I realized as I sort of began to make that journey was there was a skill set. And then there was also a lot about navigating class and I think that that is something that we continue and it’s not just class, of course its its intersectional its class, its race, its gender, its age, its its sexuality. It’s all the things that And so to your your question about whether the doors are open, and to whom I think that’s part of what we have to think about
Tim Fulton 20:07
all the time. Hmm. Can you had talked about funding just a little bit, and I don’t want to belabor the point, but I think it’s important to note that while the Wexner Center is funded partially by the Ohio State University, well, first of all, the university is under financial strain. But also when you guys can’t let people in the doors and can’t charge tickets and can’t hold a formal gala or anniversary celebration, whatever it’s being called. Now, that hurts the bottom line as well. Right. And so tough decisions need to be made. And that you’re you’re not the city park. It’s, you know, it’s not by default just paid for. Right. While it while I truly do believe it is a public good, it is not funded that way.
Johanna Burton 20:55
Right. Well, and I think, you know, it’s, it’s interesting, there’s that we could talk a lot about this, wanting this space, which is on a campus and as part of a higher an institution of higher education, wanting it to actually feel like public space, while to your point, there are these barriers, I don’t think the biggest barriers are costs, although frankly, those are the ones I’d love to erase first. And we’ve been talking about what it would I there’s no, I’m certainly not making promises here about trying to be less cost prohibitive. In an ideal world, we everything would be free. And there are places for which this actually is a good business proposition. I’ve been looking at museums who have gone free and their their membership numbers go up, because people are committed, they don’t feel like this is a transactional space. But but that’s just one access point. But it is true. I think there are presumptions about our funding, which are, you know, again, we are part of, of OSU, which is I think, a really wonderful and, and I’m excited, it’s one of the reasons I wanted to come thing, but but but not all of our not all of our costs are covered, I can say that for sure. And, you know, I learned this in funny way, I worked for a director at another museum. And we were talking about fundraising when I sort of was early on in the game. And she said, you know, drawn to museums are businesses and I got really I was, it made me really upset. I’m not they’re not, they’re not businesses, they’re for the public good, their public spaces, they’re about public discourse. And they are those things, but at the end of the day, you actually do have to have the money to raise them and to pay your people and to get get the work done. And so it’s an interesting proposition to both be a kind of public space, and, and a, and an entity that that has to run on this other model. I talk a lot about how I wish that museums could make the pivot that libraries have made in terms of being these functional spaces that I think at one time, people questioned the longevity of libraries, like, you know, how do we aren’t going to need books, and people go there. And it’s all about this sort of, again, higher idea of knowledge. They’re fully public spaces, people use them for everything they have generated across, I think the entire country, kind of you know, they’re, they’re not all the same, but they operate to welcome people in and people may never read a book, but go there every day. So I think that there’s work to be done on that front.
Tim Fulton 23:27
I want to pivot just a little bit into what’s currently happening at the wax. Yeah, I want to talk about the collaboration you guys are doing with WSU specifically about the current exhibition, that’s a climate changing show. So I’ll give it I’ll make that your choice for which path to go down first,
Johanna Burton 23:47
look good, I’d be happy to speak about either. So when I came to Columbus, I had, of course, always known about Ann Hamilton, she was an artist who I admired and who I feel great affinity with, we’ve become good friends. And she, we started having conversations about really sort of as the pandemic, you know, dawned and hit and then as all of the the, you know, episodes of, of radical lay racially oppressive violence, we’re, we’re hinting into that, and also making really clear that that history, we decided we just wanted to start talking about how art could still be being made right now and how, for some, it’s very difficult. For some, it’s, it provided a different kind of context and a different kind of urgency. And that in a way, the argument is just that art is more essential than ever, even if, in a sense, it’s more imperiled, at least in terms of financial stability. And so we started inviting people that had a you know, there are various kind of ways in which they’re linked to the wax but some relationship to the Wexner And to this place to Columbus. And so we have talked with Ed Miller, who is this brilliant choreographer who of course has a, an international reputation but chooses to live and work and teach her and she did. And to Anne Bogart who did an amazing project here, which I mean she’s good friends with and and actually and invited Debra Winger who she’s worked with to do, and which is really terrific. We spoke with Dina Magog who runs a very important funding a foundation that funds artists directly. We are speaking this week with Sharon Udo who is a total Columbus we’ve spoken with Mark Lomax
Tim Fulton 25:43
and Sharon, by the way for our audience is counterfeit Madison.
Johanna Burton 25:48
Yes. And what’s come of those discussions in a way has been it it’s maybe he was a little greedy of us, we just wanted to sit and and talk with people for whom there was a kind of shared desire to think about about art in the midst of what’s happening, and not instead of what’s happening, but as it’s happening. And so this discussions were co produced with WSU, who’s one of my favorite OSU neighbors, and they’re going to be even closer to us. And the hopes there are that we’ll we’ll end up doing more of the vo he’s done collaborations with them. But there’s, they’re just an amazing team. And I think we’re just going to wrap we’re wrapping up that season. And that may be the only one that we do, but but it’s been great. And then I’m very excited about climate changing. It’s a show that just opened up the wax. Earlier, just a few weeks ago, by Lucy Zimmerman, who is an associate curator at the wax, the title of the show is climate changing on artists, institutions and the social environment. And you can imagine how many different titles were thrown around. But what Lucy really wanted to be thinking about, and this was well before any of the events of the last year, what a kind of new modality of institutional critique that artists are, are really engaged in where, you know, they’re taking cues from artists like Chris Burton, who you see that facade is of the wax has been anointed with a piece that he first did at the West 30 years ago is one of the first shows part of one of the first shows of Chris’s Chris Burton is has passed away and is one of the only artists in the show that isn’t working, is the only artist who isn’t working today. But taking up some of those questions from that had sort of percolated in the 60s 70s and beyond, about, you know, really taking institutions to task, but then thinking even more deeply about the kind of empathic, and emotional and embodied parts of those questions. And also, I think making a call for a kind of collective future making and thinking what’s different about this generation of artists is that I think they’re calling for and even demanding something else, rather than maybe just taking apart and dismantling. I love institutional critique. For the record. It’s a sweet spot. markley, but I think that there’s there is something really exhilarating about what these artists are doing. They’re looking at ableism. They’re thinking about, you know, race and gender. And these intertwined in really interesting ways. And they’re, I think, insisting on I’m really thinking about, again, placemaking within the museum is a way to consider the larger world. And so it’s very inspirational, I think, in many ways. And there, there’s a kind of poetics to a lot of what happens. So if you come to the wax, it’s a group show with about 20 artists, three of whom are collectives. And again, it ranges from, you know, artists who are thinking about, you know, how you actually enter the building, if you need a wheelchair, what does it mean to actually, you know, come in and intersect with the architecture in a way that calls attention to both how it, how it, how it holds up, and also how it holds our bodies. And I think what’s also spectacular about it is it’s, it’s very beautiful, and you can spend a lot of hours in it. But it asks hard, interesting questions. And we speaking of accessibility, are really, really thrilled that HP has partnered with us so we have free Sundays now. So you can come for free to the wax every Sunday now, which is the beginning of what I hope will be, you know, again, a bigger, a bigger step in that direction.
Tim Fulton 29:43
Absolutely. Can you talk about I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up sort of what it was like to make the decision to reopen that and also what a patron experiences in the line of COVID-19 window there.
Johanna Burton 30:00
Yeah, so we it’s a great question because there’s you have to weigh, right? how essential is it to actually have your doors open and with safety and been lucky again to work with staff who came together around a task a reopening, they became a reopening closing Task Force, because we’ve had to do it a few different times. And we’re under the umbrella of OSU. But we’ve also been allowed to think about ourselves as partially public to you know, we’re public facing as well as serving students. So and and so we reopened when we first closed, it was, we were close for quite a long time, then we reopened briefly so that our fall shows which were specifically addressing the election. So it was a suite of those that we had people had to see them as, as the run up to to the election happened. And then we re closed when the numbers went higher. When this show, it’s interesting, it’s it’s less even the decision to reopen them, were we going to install a big show that we could maybe never open the doors for. We all made a decision, Lucy Show had been pushed off actually, for nearly a year, because of the first it was meant to open. And to be clear, this show that is currently open was meant to be in 2019,
Tim Fulton 31:16
or 2000 gives me 2020.
Johanna Burton 31:18
And, and so, you know, there came a moment where we pushed it off and thought it now’s the time where we have to decide whether we install this show. And we worked with Lucy had worked with many of these artists, almost half of them had new Commission’s and the other the other work was still very, you know, specific to the show. And we felt it was worth actually seeing that through and we started having, you know, discussions about well, if we can open the doors, we can do virtual walkthroughs, we can figure out ways to to engage the work. And the good news was, we haven’t have a very, very good safety protocol within the building for our staff that said, you know, it there, it wasn’t without anxiety, I think, you know, clearly there are again, to talk about equity, you’ve got some folks who don’t have to go in to do anything at all when an institution or when a exhibition is being installed, myself included. And then you’ve got folks on the on the prep team who needed to be there. So there were real discussions about comfort and about how to have small pods working how the front desk the our amazing visitor experience team would feel safest, and we managed to get it done. So when you go there, now, there’s a lot of PRL, there’s your, nobody’s gonna ask you to go beyond the the kind of Plexi screen that is between you and the person who’s giving tickets. And I think, you know, even down we have a, we have a virtual reality headset, that you have to wear for it for one of our pieces. And it’s we’ve got a guard who’s got like this tremendous amount of like pure Allen wipes so that after every time somebody uses that, you know, the virtual reality headset it gets, it gets clean. So people have been extraordinarily grateful to be able to come into the space, and actually be with each other and be with art. That said, we haven’t slowed down at all on the other programming areas. So though it’s a shame not to be able to go to a film together, or to go to a performance together, attend an education workshop together, we have probably been programming as much if not more than before. And the numbers, interestingly, are really good. And also if there’s a silver lining, we’re actually seeing people from all over the world watching our room. We had Ohio shorts, which you’ll remember is normally you know, we have a full house, it’s it’s 300 people in that in the theater. But the numbers of people who watched during the the time that it was actually online, where it was tremendous, it was 1000s of people from from virtually every state in the United States and, and globally as well. So there have been some really kind of silver again, Silver Linings of virtual as well. And we’re learning from that so that when we come back, we can maybe utilize utilize that tool moving forward because nothing’s gonna kind of be the same. We’re not going back to normal.
Tim Fulton 34:17
Right? This is the new normal.
Johanna Burton 34:19
This is the new normal.
Tim Fulton 34:21
When I was my follow up to that, and I think you answered it was, you know, when you get to that new normal, let’s call it the fall. Do you think you’ll still be engaging and investing frankly, in virtual programming?
Johanna Burton 34:35
Yes. The answer’s yes. I actually think as amazing as our sort of buckets are with the, you know, film video and performing arts and exhibitions and learning and public practice, something that the West hasn’t really addressed is technology and I think that’s something that is on the horizon for us. It may not be its own bucket, but it certainly needs to be a tool and that tool is One employed by artists employed by audiences in a way that this has jumped started the conversation in particular way. So yeah, and I’m actually very excited because I think technology is something that the West could address very well. So ironically, one, one of our first steps in, in really kind of leaning into technology for the next year it is the Wex has been so focused on the future, that it hasn’t really actually addressed its own past. And so we are, again, ironically, as we as we aim for the future, we’re going to hire an archivist, we’re in the middle of this now, so that we can build a digital archive that actually tells the story of the center, and really kind of gives a history for all of this, this work. So technology in the past coming together in a really interesting way. I think
Tim Fulton 35:46
that’s fantastic. I am personally very excited about that. The things that sort of step out to me during this conversation, I think it’s almost a little dangerous to use this word when you think about an institution, but there is an intersectionality there, right? It is, it has multiple characteristics that have to be taken as a whole, in order to understand it. And I also think about the duality between being a public space and being a private institution, and an institution that’s connected to a land grant university. Right. Is there anything else that you would want the audience to know sort of about viewing the Wexner? center holistically?
Johanna Burton 36:32
Yeah, I mean, it’s actually I think, a challenge that we’re, we’re trying to figure out right now, which is we do so many things that I think sometimes people aren’t sure exactly what we are. And so I think that articulation of the wax as a space that you were, maybe we’re not defined by these buckets, but we do them very, very well is important, again, institutions, I think globally, caught up with the Wex at a certain point and started talking about multidisciplinarity, in a way that that makes us seem maybe less unique than we are. So I think, in terms of telling our story, it really is about utilizing this space, I’m going to start using the word transdisciplinary rather than multidisciplinary because I think artists themselves are less beholden or interested in holding those buckets apart, when we use those tools to tell stories about about the world and about ourselves. And I do again, think that what’s on the horizon is figuring out how that process piece of what we do really is unique. And it really invites people in and allows it to be a discursive, generative social space, unlike many others. And again, I think telling the story moving forward, we have maybe not been as invested in talking about our place on campus on a space of learning. And I actually really think that that’s something that differentiates us and I want to want to continue to talk about so I’m not sure if that answers your question.
Tim Fulton 38:03
Absolutely, it does. I just want to wrap up by asking sort of what are your now that you’ve, you’re a Columbus site now. What do you think?
Johanna Burton 38:13
I love it. I’m really happy here. I, as you know, I spent, you know, my entire professional life in New York City. But I came from a place that’s very different from Columbus, but I think has an affinity and a we there’s a there’s a kind of fierce loyalty to the city that I find really interesting. And I kind of civic engagement around, at least around the arts that I have found really moving. You know, often I think that kind of pride has to do with I don’t know, it’s a big enough city, to to have kind of texture, but it’s also small enough to have real community. I’m Reno which is the biggest little city in the world. And sometimes I think there’s something similar about it. I’ve also felt really fortunate to meet and just incredible people in a short time who want me in the west to succeed. And that has felt very humbling, but also, like I like I landed in the right place, and then ironically, that we found a house that chose us. So when we moved here, I’m a real Nester and I said, you know, where are the modernist houses and we ended up living in this iconic Roundhouse in rush Creek where, you know, I don’t know if you folks know rush Creek, but it is a very unusual it’s one of the only existing Usonian architecture communities in the United States built by an acolyte of Frank Lloyd Wright. And so we ended up in this this crazy house that I’m just I feel really lucky to wake up in every day. That’s round.
Tim Fulton 39:49
Fantastic. Joanna, thank you so much for your time today.
Johanna Burton 39:52
Thank you, Tim. I really enjoyed it. I hope we’ll chat again one of these days.
Tim Fulton 40:08
Thank you for listening to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again you can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast Comm. Please Rate, Subscribe, share this episode of the confluence cast with your friends, family, contacts, enemies, your favorite contemporary artists. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast calm. Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson, our producers Philip Cogley, I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.