If you're looking for a fight on who qualifies as a "real" art curator, you won't find one with Matt Adams. That's not because he doesn't have any thoughts on the issue, he does. He just doesn't think the debate is worth the effort. "There's been a lot of talk over the last few years because anyone can call themselves a curator. I just choose not to engage in those discussions because it's pointless.
"There's not an industry standard to be [an art] curator. If you're going to be a hairdresser, the state will issue you a license saying you're a hairdresser. So there's a definition for that industry. If you're going to be a CPA, that industry has a definition, a standard you have to meet before you can say you're a CPA. Art doesn't have that."
Adams, a digital artist and president of the Visual Arts Alliance, didn't study to become a curator -- at least not in a classroom. "When I joined the VAA, it was already 22 years old. There was lots of experience there and people were very generous and showed me how to put a show together, what worked, what didn't." Later Adams became president of the organization and as such, liaison to Brookfield Properties, a property management company that includes arts programming in its public spaces. After working with him on other VAA projects, Brookfield approached Adams and asked that he take over visual art programming in its Houston buildings. Adams agreed and officially added the term curator to his resume.
"There's a lot of prejudice out there against people [like me] by people who do have the formal education. 'You know, Matt, you can't call yourself a curator unless you have a degree in art history, unless you have an MFA. How dare you call yourself a curator?' I get it. I recognize I came into this ... in a very unconventional, non-academic, non-formal ... way. but I don't know what other term to use [for what I do] than curator, and that annoys some people. "
What He Does: "I'm president of the Visual Arts Alliance. I'm an independent curator. I'm a [digital] visual artist."
Why He Likes It: "As a curator, the biggest high for me is selecting the work. That can be looking at an individual artist's studio inventory to helping an artist develop work over a long time."
What Inspires Him: "I look for problems that aren't being solved. I did Houston's first iPhone show. At the time, Houston hadn't had an iPhone show. Brookfield has a problem; they have a lot of space and they want to put art on the walls. Artists have a problem; they're creating work and need a place to exhibit. I can see both of those issues from their point of view and create opportunities for both."
Adams calls Brookfield "the largest corporate philanthropist for the visual arts in Houston." The company has a staff of 12 in New York who coordinate 450 events annually nationwide.
If Not This, Then What: "I'm genetically wired to be visual. It would be in art education realm." Adams and his partner have organized photography classes for at-risk students before. Through his work at VAA, he coordinates several educational events a year.
If Not Here, Then Where: "I've not thought of that. [My partner's] and my families are here. Going somewhere would require a lot of personal upset so I think I'll be staying here in Houston."
What's Next: Adams continues to work with the VVA (over his tenure as president, the organization has gone from some 11 events a year to hosting more than 20).
He recently curated the ">20 Square Feet" exhibit currently on display at 1600 Smith Street (formerly Continental Center I). The show, a collection of large scale work from Houston and Austin artists, has its official opening reception on December 13. Beyond that, his 2014 exhibition schedule isn't firm yet. Along with his husband, Adams has an event space in Montrose. The two have hosted exhibits and related events there before. "We bring in artists and art-related activities on a when-we-feel-like-it basis," Adams laughs. "I have some ideas for shows. We'll see that happens. Something's going to find me again or I make something for myself."
More Creatives for 2013 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page). Gilbert Ruiz, artist Dionne Sparkman Noble, choreographer and professor Lee Wright, artist Vic Shuttee, comedy writer and performer Robin Davidson, poet and translator Jessica Wilbanks, essayist and Pushcart Prize winner David DeHoyos, astronaut photographer Sophie Jordan, bestselling book author Jessi Jordan, comic artist, beekeeper and yeti enthusiast Patrick Peters, architect and professor Jamie Kinosian, visual artist Paris F. Jomadiao, mixed-media artist and stop motion animator Shanon Adams, dancer James Glassman, Houstorian historian and artist Lou Vest, photographer Sara Gaston, stage and screen star Rachael Pavlik, a writer mom Ana Villaronga-Roman, Katy Contemporary Arts Museum director Erin Wasmund, actor, singer and dancer Karim Al-Zand, composer Jan Burandt, paper conservator for The Menil Collection Deke Anderson, actor Craig Cohen, hockey fan and host of Houston Matters Mauro Luna, Poe-Inspired photographer Trond Saeverud, Galveston Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor Khrystyna Balushka, paper flower child Christina Carfora, visual artist and world traveler Sara Kumar, artistic director for Shunya Theatre Kiki Maroon, burlesque clown Gin Martini, fashion designer Lacey Crawford, painter and sculptor Homer Starkey, novelist Jenn Fox, mixed media Shohei Iwahama, dancer Erica DelGardo, metalsmith Bob Clark, executive director Houston Family Arts Center Kerrelyn Sparks, bestselling romance author Lindsay Halpin, punk rock mad hatter Drake Simpson, actor Shelby Carter, Playboy model turned photographer David Matranga, actor Crystal Belcher, pole dancer Daniel Kramer, photographer Blue 130, pin-up explosion art Nina Godiwalla, author and TED speaker David Wilhem, light painter Tom Abrahams, author and newscaster Browncoat, pin-up pop artist Kris Becker, Nu-Classical composer and pianist Vincent Fink, science fashion Stephanie Saint Sanchez, Senorita Cinema founder Ned Gayle, thrift store painting defacer Sameera Faridi, fashion designer Greg Ruhe, The Human Puppet Sophia L. Torres, founder and co-artistic director of Psophonia Dance Company Maggie Lasher, dance professor and artistic director Jordan Jaffe, founder of Black Lab Theatre Outspoken Bean, performance poet Barry Moore, architect Josh Montoute, mobile gaming specialist Ty Doran, young actor Gwen Zepeda, Houston's first Poet Laureate Joseph Walsh, principal dancer at Houston Ballet Justin Garcia, artist Buck Ross, dilettante and director of Moores Opera Center Patrick Renner, sculptor of the abstract and the esoteric Tomas Glass, abstract artist and True Blood musician Ashley Stoker, painter, photographer and Tumblr muse Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer Danielle Burns, art curator Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker Amanda Stevens, scary book author Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger Ana MarÃa Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach Billy D. Washington, comedian Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer Kelly Sears, animator and film maker Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director jhon r. stronks,dance-maker Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer