In an odd coincidence, on the same day last week that a card arrived in my mailbox publicizing an exhibition at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute that was curated by high school students, an item appeared in the Times Union about a series of shows at the Williams College Museum of Art that will be curated by non-professionals, including a florist, an athletic coach, and - you betcha! - some high school students.
Now, it so happens that the MWPAI and the WCMA are two of the most respectable museums within the sound of this blog, and they both have especially important and large collections. So it's almost guaranteed that Follow the Light at the MWPAI (already open, and set to run through July 7) and The Gallery of Crossed Destinies, as the WCMA series is titled (and which currently features the curatorial efforts of a group of 9th-graders), include high-quality and intriguing art that will satisfy and inspire viewers.
But what does this say to the rest of us - especially those who either have worked very hard to develop the ability and credibility to organize art exhibitions, and those who respect and admire them - about the value of curatorial sensibility and expertise?
Not to overreact - Follow the Light is the result of a course in Exploring Museum Careers, and The Gallery of Crossed Destinies provides the same carefully selected 25 objects to each of the participants to install in their own way (an Edward Hopper and a Georgia O'Keeffe among them), so there is some control here - but I do have some doubts about this trend.
Why not try this next time: Assign a number to each of the objects in the WCMA collection (let's say there are 3,000 of them), and then use a computer to generate 25 random numbers between 1 and 3,000 - and then have that be your show, curated by ... I don't know, anybody got a clever name for a computer program that curates?
Probably would be a huge draw.