Makin' It: Kalia Brooks, Curator

"Being in the creative field is being in a playful field."

Kalia Brooks is the Director of Exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art in Brooklyn. She is also an an adjunct professor at New York University and a Ph.D. candidate in aesthetics and art theory at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts.

Can you take me through the process of organizing an exhibition? Which comes first—the artist or you as the curator?

I stay away from having a curatorial idea first, and then finding artists to illustrate that idea. To me, those are the least successful shows. I am surrounded by artists, and I believe it is the curator's job to always keep up with artists whose work they find compelling, and who are dealing with ideas, topics, and forms that the curator will be able to build a show around. So, for me, exhibition-making always starts with the artist. Then I will approach a venue; or sometimes a venue may approach me. If the exhibition proposal fits with the culture of the venue then, ideally, it will be a match. The culture of the museum or venue has a major influence over whether or not an exhibition will be produced. As a curator, it is always wise to know the mission of these venues so that you can pitch the exhibition directly to the ethos of the organization.

Would you say your job is fun?

I think I'd rather describe the pleasure I receive from my work more in terms of play. Being in the creative field is being in a playful field. I don't mean play in terms of recreation or leisure, but more in terms of productivity through imagination. If the imaginative element of curatorial practice becomes comprised then I am moving away from my source of productivity—my playful space. Of course, play can generate fun, and to answer your question more directly, the most fun part of my work as a curator is in conceptualizing and facilitating exhibitions with artists. I get a tremendous amount of joy and gratification from this.

Can you tell me about your degree in curatorial practice, a relatively new field?

My study in exhibition-making informs my entire approach to curatorial practice. Much of what I learned about the study of exhibitions came from artists' intervention into the subject. When artists started responding to the perceived and experienced limitations of the field in the late 60s and early 70s, they began making work to reveal the limitations of structure. In my view, this awareness of curating as a discursive form comes from the path that such artists made, which opened up the possibilities of creating (or appropriating) new platforms for exhibition making.

How is this awareness changing how curators exhibit and talk about art?

When I was in school, curators were of course writing about their practice, but in limited quantity. As students, we were encouraged to take a critical awareness of our practice as a means of contributing to a particular school of thought known as curatorial practice. A lot of that criticality for me is based in sociology, psychology, colonial/post-colonial discourse, media studies, and other forms of philosophical thought. I think that this awareness—again, initiated by artists—reveals curating as a type of aesthetic performativity that connects the artist with a philosophical scholarship that is central to the way in which people come to view the world.

Tell me about the ethos of MoCADA.

MoCADA has a culture that is of course situated in and generated by the African Diaspora. I know it sounds like a broad statement, but that is intentional. We believe in both creating opportunities for artists of color to show their work and creating a space for discourse around the idea of “diaspora” itself. Essentially, this is the movement of people and cultures beyond places of origin and the transmission of information via this network.

How does that idea speak to your work?

A large part of my work as the Director of Exhibitions is to problematize the idea of origin and begin to introduce our audience to the notion of origin as a mythology. My curatorial vision is very much centered on “Africa” as a concept in order to highlight not only our contemporary relationship with the continent, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the pedagogic, political, social, and cultural visual systems that derive from melanated people the world over. I think there is a lot of creative potential in using the latter to generate new platforms of artistic discourse.

Makin' It is the work of journalist Brady Welch and illustrator Skyler Swezy, the team behind


Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News

An anonymous White House official claims President Trump cruelly limited Hispanic immigrants in their new book, "A Warning."

The book, to be released on November 19, gives an alleged insider account of the Trump White House and paints a picture of the president as a chaotic man who lacks the mental and moral acumen required for the job.

The anonymous staffer says that Trump once feigned a Hispanic accent and made fun of women attempting to immigrate to the U.S.

Keep Reading Show less
via KTVU / YouTube

The 63-year-old Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, currently branded the RingCentral Coliseum, is one of the most decrepit sports venues in America.

The home to the the NFL's Oakland Raiders (until they move to Las Vegas next season) and MLB's A's, is notoriously known as the Black Hole and has made headlines for its frequent flooding and sewage issues.

One of the stadium's few positive aspects is its connection to public transportation.

Keep Reading Show less
Hero Video
Yad Vashem

Since 1992, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous has been holding reunion ceremonies between Holocaust survivors and rescuers once a year. But the tradition is coming to an end, as many have died or are too frail to travel. What might be the last reunion of its kind took place when a 92-year-old woman met up with the two surviving family members that she helped hide during the Holocaust, and their descendants.

Sarah Yanai and Yossi Mor introduced Melpomeni Dina (nee Gianopoulou) to their almost 40 family members, all decedents of the Mordechai family, the family of seven that Dina and her two sisters hid during WWII. "There are no words to describe this feeling," Dina told the Jeruselum Post. "It is very emotional for us to be together again."

Keep Reading Show less
via Facebook / Autumn Dayss

Facebook user and cosplayer Autumn Dayss has stirred up a bit of Halloween controversy with her last-minute costume, an anti-Vaxx mother.

An image she posted to the social network shows a smiling Dayss wearing a baby carrier featuring a small skeleton. "Going to a costume party tonight as Karen and her non-vaccinated child," the caption over the image reads.

Keep Reading Show less