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Gaëtane Verna, Executive Director
May 12, 2023
I am thrilled to be the first to share with you a sneak preview of the upcoming year of events at the Wexner Center for the Arts. This moment is especially exciting for me as it will be my first full year of programs since my arrival in November.
The next year represents the Wexner Center at its best and most engaging. The entire team has been working hard planning, preparing, and producing an extensive array of programs and partnerships—building on core relationships within our communities and with artists both locally and globally to bring you an unparalleled lineup. Their efforts further the extraordinary foundation on which the center was built, and I know you will continue to be energized and inspired by your encounters in our galleries, theaters, and performance venues.
What follows are just a handful of moments on our calendar. You can visit our blog to dig a bit deeper and to explore the rest of my director’s picks.
In our center-wide conversations about the upcoming year, one thing became readily apparent— at the Wexner Center you can find the world in one place. To wit:
This dynamic lineup—and this is just the start—is right around the corner, and I cannot wait to share it with you.
Thank you, always, for your support.
Guests visit the Wex Open House, one of the many programs organized by the Learning and Public Practice department.
It’s been a busy few months at the Wexner Center for the Arts, with the opening of four new thought-provoking exhibitions, a visit from revered Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, and a number of conversations with leading artists and thinkers. This kind of vibrant activity is just one of the many reasons the Wex was featured in a recent article from Forbes about why everyone should visit our beloved Columbus. I’m deeply proud of these programs and the extraordinary team that joins together and takes great care to make them a reality for us all.
In the spirit of introducing our colleagues who lead the organization alongside me, this month, I would like to turn the message over to Dionne Custer Edwards, our Head of Learning and Public Practice. Dionne is dedicated to the work of her department; she and her fearless team are resolute and driven by their belief in the importance of the work and the communities they serve day in and day out. Below Dionne will share a bit about this bustling and innovative area of the center—one which touches the lives and minds of thousands of people every year.
Thank you, Gaëtane,
This moment seems appropriate to reintroduce the Wexner Center’s Department of Learning and Public Practice.
One of the center’s four program areas, Learning and Public Practice (LPP) works across disciplines with our exhibitions, film/video, and performing arts departments to develop programming that focuses on human impact and engagement. Our efforts are high touch, public facing, and created to prioritize teaching, research, education, outreach, health, and well-being.
Our programs offer an array of free opportunities for diverse audiences and participants across local, regional, and global communities and throughout The Ohio State University campus. Whether we’re working with Wex colleagues and artists, exploring possibilities with community partners, or collaborating alongside Ohio State faculty and students, our team is invested in hands-on and interactive activities, along with shaping energizing and inclusive environments.
The work of LPP can be found in person at the center and throughout local neighborhoods via teaching and learning programs and studio and interpretive activities, as well as through a number of programs offered online. In addition, the department engages K–12 and higher-education students through its dedication to supporting artistic practice, expanding curricula, and creating spaces for learning.
LPP programming includes workshops, classes, tours, gallery experiences, Art and Resilience initiatives, screenings, talks, and panel discussions (such as our upcoming Director’s Dialogue). As a team, we also generate learning resources and guides that are free to readers of all ages.
For more information, visit wexarts.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dionne Custer EdwardsHead of Learning and Public Practice
Alanis Obomsawin, courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada.
For this month’s message, I’m handing the updates over to David Filipi, the Wexner Center’s Head of Film and Video. David has been the head of the department since 2010 and part of the team since 1994. This robust program screens more than 150 films a year, often with opportunities to meet the filmmakers and engage in conversation surrounding their projects. David’s work with the Film and Video team has touched thousands of people over the years. He’s brought filmmakers and artists such as Harry Belafonte, the Quay Brothers, Isabella Rossellini, and Charles Burnett to Columbus and is the curator behind the center’s annual Cinema Revival festival and the major retrospective Julia Reichert: 50 Years in Film. Film and Video is also home to an innovative studio, overseen by Jennifer Lange, which offers production services to dozens of filmmakers annually and has delivered critical support to many who have found audiences at Sundance, Cannes, and many other venues around the world.
The Wexner Center is home to a wide array of voices, and I’m honored to share the spotlight with them.
Without further ado, here’s David.
This month, we’re excited to welcome three celebrated filmmakers: two are returning guests and one we’re thrilled to welcome for the first time.
The acclaimed Indigenous filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin visits on March 3 to present her landmark documentary Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, which chronicles the historic armed confrontation over Kanien’kéhaka lands in Quebec between protestors and the Canadian army. While in Columbus, the legendary Abenaki artist will engage with members of the Native American Indian community on campus and in Columbus. Bringing Alanis to the Wexner Center was a team effort, with folks from the Departments of Film and Video, Tech Services, Communications and Marketing, Learning and Public Practice, and Advancement coming together to create what will be an unforgettable night celebrating this remarkable artist. We’re also deeply grateful for the support from the Consulate General of Canada in Detroit, our friends in Ohio State student group Cinéseries, and NAICCO (Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio) Cuisine, who will be sharing food with us the evening of March 3.
On March 20, we welcome back indie icon Kelly Reichardt, who will introduce her new film, Showing Up, which follows an artist (played by Michelle Williams) who is preparing for a show that will change her life. Reichardt has visited the center a number of times to work in our Film and Video Studio and introduce screenings of Old Joy and Certain Women, the latter produced with the support of a Wexner Center Artist Residency Award. Finally, on March 28, Jenny Perlin returns to discuss her new film, Bunker, produced with the support of our Film and Video Studio. The film is about the solitude and eccentricity of men who live in decommissioned nuclear silos and military bunkers across the Midwest.
It’s always a joy to share such moments with audiences, and we hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity to see these great filmmakers talk about their respective work in person!
David Filipi Head of Film and Video
Brother(hood) Dance!, photo: Ryan Muir
Let me be the first to welcome you to our winter/spring exhibitions and to celebrate the work of the artists that we have chosen to champion. On February 10, we open our galleries to present new commissioned work by the Meditation Ocean Constellation, Sa’dia Rehman, A.K. Burns, and Anna Tsouhlarakis. This dynamic suite foregrounds their belief in using art as a tool for empowerment and as a platform to engage in conversations around identity, place, and cultural change. Each exhibition features never-before-seen projects, some of which were supported by the Wexner Center for the Arts’ Artist Residency Award program and Film/Video Studio—two beautiful demonstrations of the center’s commitment to supporting artists and enabling them to produce new works.
This will be my first exhibition preview as executive director, and I’m eager to have you join us for this joyous moment. If you are not able to be with us in Columbus, I encourage you to follow updates online—we’ll have an abundance of related programming to enjoy while exhibitions are on view, including artist conversations, meditation sessions, and more streaming on wexarts.org.
The exhibitions are just the start of a vital, active month. It continues with the Ohio premiere of Afro/Solo/Man by Brother(hood) Dance!—our first dance presentation of 2023. Choreographed and performed by Orlando Zane Hunter Jr. and Ricarrdo Valentine, this exhilarating program challenges assumptions about race and gender through powerful dance performances that are both deeply personal and striking.
February concludes with the ninth-annual festival of film restoration Cinema Revival. Through its dozen programs—many featuring films unavailable on streaming or other formats—the series encourages you to rethink cinema history by showcasing films, filmmakers, and stories veering from the mainstream. I’m excited to hear from visitors such as the extraordinary archivist Ina Archer and the incomparable Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter Guy Maddin and to be in a space that makes such guests and films available and open to engaging conversation.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year on behalf of the entire team at the Wexner Center for the Arts. I hope that the end-of-year holidays have been a peaceful and restful time with family and friends. As we move into 2023, I am enthusiastic at the thought of discovering—alongside you—all the Wexner Center has to offer.
I started at the Wex on November 28, and I chose to spend this first month meeting with the center’s dedicated team while beginning to meet colleagues and members of the vibrant Columbus arts community. Within my first few weeks, I was delighted to be invited to take part in a trip to New York with staff, trustees, and members to meet artists with whom we will soon be working and to visit exhibitions featuring many artists who have crossed paths with the Wex over the years and some who may be appearing in our spaces soon. Having the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking conversations with artists is always such a deeply meaningful and memorable part our work and our shared artistic journeys.
I recently sat down with the Columbus Dispatch and in that conversation, which can be found on dispatch.com, I candidly speak of my enthusiasm about being here in Columbus and at the Wexner Center and the many possibilities that 2023 will bring. This January, we’ll engage with a series of critical questions and topics, such as the end-of-life issues explored in our Resting Places film series and panel discussion or the threat of climate change evoked in the powerful theatrical production Are we not drawn onward to new erA. The films, performances, educational programs, and visual arts programs that we present at Wexner Center aim to not only deliver aesthetic experiences, but also tackle pressing societal issues in new and exhilarating ways.
The work you’ll encounter here is an invitation to think and reflect on the current important issues of our world. From event to event, exhibition to exhibition, we offer you an invitation to engage with topics, to investigate the culture from new angles, and to participate in dialogues that disrupt, challenge, and always enlighten your spirit and your mind. It’s an invitation that I take pride in extending.
I hope to see you in our galleries or at a film or performance very soon.
After my whirlwind first week in Columbus I am thrilled to write to you as the Wexner Center for the Arts’ new executive director. I am humbled and awed to be part of this great institution.
On behalf of the Wexner Center and its friends, please join me in thanking Kelly Stevelt and Megan Cavanaugh for their steadfast leadership during the interim phase and my transition into this role. They’ve worked tirelessly as co-interim executive directors, and I am grateful to them and the entire Wex staff for their commitment during this period.
I am honored to be part of one of the leading contemporary arts institutions in the world. To work alongside this dedicated team, to build on the center’s remarkable past, and to shape its bright future together is a gift. To me, an institution is—first and foremost—its people: the staff, the artists we support, the individuals who support us in turn, and the patrons who walk through our doors. At its best, an institution brings together all these voices into harmony—a choir of different voices chiming together, yet each beautiful in its own way.
Art has the power to articulate the challenging questions of our society and to provide meaningful insights about how we might approach our lives. Art, artists, and institutions can imagine, disrupt, and lead when it comes to encouraging change and movement toward a more just society. I believe there are no borders between artistic practices, and the multidisciplinary mission to which the Wexner Center is so committed ensures we can connect our audiences with uniquely broad perspectives—local, national, and global. My goal is to see the Wex continue this work and to invite you to engage in these dialogues and experiences that so enrich our lives.
As a supporter of the Wex, you are foundational to it all, and I’m so grateful that you have chosen to join us on a journey that nurtures these engagements.