In this week’s Frank Talk we sit down with Jennifer Famery-Mariani, who is an independent curator with global interests in art & culture, health, entertainment, urban development, and social behavior. Jennifer is also the founder of TriBeCa Art+Culture Night. She produces events across all disciplines, built to catalyze the diversity of thought and creative expression, push boundaries and unlock art. These include neighborhood festivals, city salons, and event series. These projects have led her to collaborate with a variety of art spaces, non-profits and communities, artists and art related start-ups. Previously, she was a curator and art dealer at Allouche Gallery (f/k/a Opera Gallery) in New York. Prior to this, she was a business strategy consultant in Paris at BearingPoint (f/k/a Anderson Consulting). Before consulting, she was an adviser in the cabinet of the Mayor of Paris, on financial, cultural and urban development as well as financial issues.
What was your first job in the Arts?
My first job in the Arts was focused in cultural affairs as the Policy Officer & Technical Adviser in the Cabinet of the Mayor of Paris (9th district). In charge of the year of Armenia namely, I conceptualized, developed and executed museum-quality contemporary art exhibitions across all artistic forms and media, including painting, photography, film, drawing, prints, music and sculpture and installations.
There my mission was to democratize access to art and provide a platform for artists, curators and art organizations.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
How to work with very different cultural organizations (auction houses, theatres, galleries, non-profits, individual artists, museums, etc) across cultures and spaces.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I’ve had a passion for arts and culture as long as I can remember. I‘ve been lucky through my career to get exposed to a variety of facets of the cultural and art world –public policy & curatorial side for the city of Paris, business and organizational side through my strategy consulting job for cultural institutions, artists and creative side (took a year off to dedicate time to my own painting), and curatorial and market side through my job at a gallery and curatorial side with my experience as an Independent Curator. I think working in the arts in New York is what really sealed the deal!
What do you do now?
I am an independent curator & cultural producer. In all my involvements, I aim to create positive impact. I produce events across all disciplines, built to catalyze the diversity of creative expression, push boundaries and make art accessible. These include neighborhood festivals, city salons, and event series. At the moment, most of my energy is focused on developing Tribeca Art+Culture Night, a local festival I founded 3 years ago. It is located in the 40+ participating Lower Manhattan venues, including outdoor and indoor spaces such as art non-profits, fine-art, design and university galleries and parks. The event features a program of exhibitions, tours, performances, talks and workshops.
Where are you from?
I am from Paris, France!
What is the arts community like there?
It’s eclectic, active, mixed and heavily supported by the city. Public institutions assist the development of arts communities through funding, physical resources on macro levels and at the scale of neighborhoods.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Definitely. Am convinced of the power of art as a connecter and lever to build community. I also consider Art and Culture as a “public good” that everyone should be able to access. It has shaped my intent to create positive social impact with the Arts and lead with a collective spirit.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Be open and flexible. Trade expectations for appreciation. Help people. Connect with people on a real level. Be involved in several communities.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Being versatile in the type of jobs/industries in which I’ve worked.
What has been a challenge for you?
Figuring out what I wanted to achieve as an independent curator. There are so many paths one can take!
What is something you do every day at work?
Coffee! To do lists! Chat with people. Repeat.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Having a nude porn star sit on a Gaetano Pesce spaghetti chair as part of a performance in his retrospective show
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
A good employee is a curious learner, flexible and passionate.
A good boss is optimist at heart, knows how to listen, leads with a spirit of generosity and can collaborate with individuals of diverse talents & skills.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Pro-activity and a sense of personal investment / ownership mentality.
What are things you can do proactively boost your CV?
Creating a red thread that ties up coherently your experience while demonstrating diversity in experiences and skills. Your CV should give a sense of who you are as a person as opposed to showcasing only technical/standardized skills
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
Pick a position that enables you to have a wide exposure and develop a diverse portfolio of skills. Spend time building and maintaining relationships.
In your experience, what are things to do and things to avoid during an interview?
Research the company/industry/speak with current employees if possible to show you are engaged on a personal level with the position/organization. Make propositions with regards to what you could do/bring to the table.
Definitely avoid making negative comments about past roles/work environments/colleagues. As much as it is true, I feel it always reflects poorly on the interviewee.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
The early Drawings by Modigliani at the Jewish Museum
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
I love collecting works of artist whom I appreciate the art and share a personal connection with. George Condo who used to live in my building. Gaetano Pesce with whom I have had the pleasure of working with for his survey show at Allouche Gallery. Joan Mitchell – a family friend introduced me to her work 20 years ago when she was still somewhat underrated (at least by the market). Haas Brothers, whom I was introduced to during one of my trips. Oksana Todorova is one of the first exhibitions we showcased for the inaugural iteration of Tribeca Art+Culture Night in 2016!