Alexander Paschka has been named Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts’ first full-time exhibitions curator.
Paschka will be responsible for managing three to four exhibitions concurrently at UICA, developing an understanding of the exhibition spaces and flow of the building, creating a welcoming environment and re-networking the organization with regional, national and international arts communities.
“Behind the scenes” at GRAM
Paschka has spent the past seven years at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, where he has worked in nearly every department.
His first role was as an assistant preparator, which quickly led into helping to create exhibitions and managing the audio and video aspects of exhibitions.
By the time GRAM moved from the old Federal Building to its current location, Paschka was serving as a stand in within the public relations department, which was operating without a director.
“I managed the launch of the new website and took over the audio/video component of the events,” he said. “I worked supporting the director at the time, and the exhibitions got increasingly more prestigious and important. I wound up working a lot behind the scenes on all aspects.”
His most recent role at GRAM was manager of digital media.
Paschka said one of his proudest achievements is GRAM on the Green, which is a summer outdoor interdisciplinary arts program that he developed a few years ago and has grown to a few hundred attendees.
He also helped develop GRAM’s first app, GRAM Jansma Collection, which allows museum attendees to delve deeper into the work that is part of the museum’s Jansma Print Collection.
“Holistic” approach to industry
In addition to working at GRAM, Paschka is one of founders of Avenue for the Arts, a 5X5 winner — for his weather collage app idea — and he recently joined Momentum, a tech incubator program.
“I think my unique history in all those different roles in the museum profession is going to help have a more holistic role in designing the exhibitions,” he said.
Paschka said he expects one of his first challenges will be really figuring out the building.
“More than a challenge, I see it as an opportunity,” he said. “I am a pretty optimistic, hardworking person.”
UICA has identified creating a welcoming atmosphere for visitors as one of its main priorities, and Paschka’s work will be part of reaching that goal.
“I’d like to make sure that the public is invited in and feels welcome and wants to return,” he said. “I think that is going to be done through a lot of human-centered design, experience design and exhibition design, and I think the building has a lot of opportunity for growth.”
He expects that his experience with Momentum also will come in handy in his new position.
“I worked in the lean startup methodology,” he said. “A lot of the training that I got and things that I learned I’ve been waiting to apply to nonprofits and arts organizations, so I think that part of my process is going to be rapid iteration and getting feedback from the community, so that we can move fast and figure out how we best connect and how we can form a really strong relationship together.”
Paschka plans to begin developing a three-year plan for the exhibitions that will allow UICA more time to seek out business partnerships, create engagement experiences and develop valuable educational resources.