JORDYN RUSSELL – STAFF WRITER
Chautauqua Visual Arts will spotlight curator Valerie Cassel Oliver for the annual Leon and Gloria Plevin Family Museum Director Lecture at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10 on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch. The annual lecture series was established in honor of the late Leon Plevin, husband to artist Gloria Plevin and avid supporter of the visual arts at Chautauqua.
Hailing from Houston, Oliver attended the University of Texas at Austin, going on to attend graduate school at Howard University. Presently, she serves as the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Richmond-based Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, one of the largest art museums in North America.
Throughout her professional career, Oliver also acted as a senior curator for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston for 16 years, where her work honed in on valuable topics such as inclusivity, representation and spotlighting artists of different social and cultural environments. Additionally, she served as the director of the Visiting Artist Program at the School of Art Institute of Chicago, and a program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts.
As an experienced curator, Oliver has organized numerous exhibitions including various solo exhibitions such as “Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped (2017),” and “Angel Otero: Everything and Nothing (2016).”
In 2021, Oliver curated the unprecedented exhibition “The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse,” reemphasizing the importance of open dialogue in regard to urgent themes here in America. In this exhibition, Oliver details the intricate conversations between art, music and everyday objects found in Southern culture.
“If you have blues or jazz as the American original art form, what is the visual equivalent to that?” Oliver told ARTnews magazine. “We don’t really look always in our backyard to understand the tributaries toward modernism, but you can’t have modernism without the backyard of the South, and you don’t have a South without Black culture (because) Black culture is the origins.”
The live lecture will be followed by an open conversation and Q-and-A session moderated by Sharon Louden, the Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel Artistic Director of the Visual Arts. Audience members are encouraged to take part in this open dialogue.