Young Curators Club 0

An express-interview Hanna-Liis Kont about the Tartmus Youth Club

Until 5 May Tartmus Art Museum of Tartu offers its viewers an experimental and creative exhibition “The World of Muses”, curated by the Tartu Art Museum’s Youth Club. Amongst the participating artists are Ene-Liis Semper, Jaan Luik, Ellinor Aiki, Andrei Jegorov and others. “The idea of the exhibition is to show how different but equally inspiring women have been depicted in artworks. At the same time as our exhibition, the museum is also showing Among Ourselves. Woman Portraying a Woman that inspired us to choose a theme that would create a dialogue between the two shows. It was a great pleasure for all of us to select artworks from the Tartu Art Museum’s collection and work on this exhibition. We had to leave out some of our initial choices but that only means that the final selection comprises of our most favourite works,” say the members of TYC and curators Liisa-Lota Jõeleht, Saskia Kolberg, Killu Simson, Liisa Veddel. invited the supervisor of TYC Hanna-Liis Kont to tell a little more about the Tartmus Youth Club, its focus, activities and future aims.

What is Tartmus Youth Club and when it started?

Tartmus Youth Club was founded in 2017 for young people who are interested in the many different forms of visual culture. The participants’ have mostly been aged between 14–19 but this is not very strictly determined. Participation in the Club is free of charge and it has been funded by the Tartu City Government. It is a peer-led group which means that the members of the Club decide together, what their activities will be. The museum’s role is to support and advise them when they need it. Therefore, the museum does not give them a set programme but rather the environment, resources and guidance that they need to develop their own programme. We have also kept it as flexible as possible for the members and always taken into account their other engagements and school schedule. This approach seems to work as they continue to be very motivated to plan new meetings and keep the Club going.

What are the main objectives of the Tartmus Youth Club and are its activities linked to a specific museum educational programme?

The aim is to provide an accessible, exciting and also educational opportunity for the young people of Tartu and its broader region to engage with visual culture and also more specifically with the Tartu Art Museum. The Club enables us to work closely with a small number of young people and focus on the quality of their experience, rather than constantly thinking of large visitor numbers. However, through the Club’s activities and events, the members are also attracting more young people to the museum which means that they have also become valuable partners to the museum by reaching young audiences and sparking people’s interest in art.
The club’s activities can be divided into two types: one is that the Youth Club members plan activities for themselves to learn or experience some forms of visual culture, for example photography, film making or fashion design. In this case, they tell us what they are interested in and we help them find guest visitors or plan trips so that they could engage with their interests. The second option is that they organise events for other (young) people. These events are usually connected to some exhibitions open at the Tartu Art Museum (for example they conduct guided tours or plan youth days at the museum), but they can also be independent workshops, poetry nights, film screenings or other forms of public events for the museum’s audiences. The group has also helped with the museum’s education programme by letting us test some new ideas on them.

“The World of Muses” is the first exhibition curated by Tartmus Youth Club. What is it about and how did the organisation process go?

“The World of Muses” is an exhibition in the museum’s project space and it is about the depiction of very different but also very inspiring women. The works are all from the Tartu Art Museum’s collection and have been made during the 20th and 21st centuries. All of the elements of the exhibition from the theme to the poster design and label content were decided and executed by four girls from the Youth Club who curated the exhibition. The organisation went well because we were able to have regular meetings and we approached it as any other exhibition which meant that there was a specific timeline and clear division of tasks. All the girls took the project seriously and worked hard to get it done in only a few months’ time. Because the project was larger and more demanding than the usual events that the Club has been organising, the museum’s role also grew and we gave them a lot of guidance and a clear structure to help them stay on track. I believe it was a valuable experience of team work and compromise for them as selecting only a small number of artworks from a collection of more than 20,000 works was never going to be easy. I am also glad that they collaborated with young poets and incorporated a selection of thematically related poems into the exhibition. Therefore, they managed to give the show a very individual and fresh touch.

What, in your opinion, is the greatest benefit for those participating in the Tartmus Youth Club, as well as for those attending the projects curated by it?

Participation in the Club provides a wide variety of new skills and experiences that the young people can use in the future – they learn to organise events which requires good communication and time management but also creativity and courage. I can see that successfully delivering a project has boosted their confidence and motivation to explore and experiment even more. Of course, they also learn a lot about art and other forms of culture and how they can use these resources in making sense of the complex world around them. Those attending the events and exhibition often get inspired by the enthusiasm and achievements of the Club members and some of them have also started to collaborate with the Club in different ways (performing music at the museum, reading poetry etc). I also believe that many young people have become more interested in art after hearing about it through the perspective of people who are their own age.

What projects and exhibitions you have scheduled for this year?

At the moment we are approaching late spring which means that some of the young people will have exams and a very busy time at school so we have not decided on the next projects just yet but one of the first jobs will be to deinstall the exhibition once it finishes at the beginning on May. The best way to keep an eye on the activities of the Youth Club is through their Instagram page @tartmusnoored.
However, at the end of May the Tartu Art Museum will open a large overview exhibition titled “Pallas 100. Art School and its Legend” to celebrate the fact that the significant school which became a turning point in the development of Estonian art was founded a 100 years ago (in 1919) in Tartu. It is very probable that the Youth Club will also find interesting ways to engage with and interpret the exhibition.