The Contemporary resurfaced today with an announcement about exciting new programming and a return to its roots. Founded 24 years ago by George Ciscle as a nomadic gallery mounting site-specific, often collaborative, exhibitions, it later found a home (near the Walters) but lost its luster after Ciscle departed and landed at MICA—where he ran the Exhibition Development Seminar and started the Curatorial Practice MFA (a program that includes a writing course I teach). Looking to recapture some of its former glory, while simultaneously rebooting and rebranding, the board hired one of Ciscle's former students, Deana Haggag, as director. Her intro letter on The Contemporary's just-launched website outlines a strategy for going forward that embraces Ciscle's original vision with some intriguing additions.
The Contemporary will, once again, be "a nomadic, non-collecting museum that dedicates its resources to commissioning site-specific and subject-oriented projects that engage diverse audiences and advance contemporary art and culture." Haggag promises the new entity will not only be "nimble, responsive, thoughtful, and socially responsible," it will be guided by three principles: "artists matter, collaboration is key, and audience is everywhere."
With that in mind, it's formed a six-member Curatorial Advisory Council and launched a Speaker Series that will spotlight local galleries and bring acclaimed artists to Baltimore. The first batch of speakers includes Coco Fusco, Nick Cave (the artist, not the singer), Brendan Fowler, and Wayne White. These events will be free, open to the public, and held at the Baltimore School for the Arts. It's the sort of win-win-win situation the local arts scene needs, and you can expect more of it from Haggag and The Contemporary.
And you can read about Haggag in the "Charmed Life" section of our December issue.