People's Biennial Blog


Portland Mercury: "Pocket of Accesibility"
October 4, 2010

"There's a wide range of work presented in the People's Biennial. Some of it is playful, like local artist Dennis Newell's Lego exhibit. Pitting plastic Star Wars characters against one another, Newell says he's exploring how to render "one's own ideas from a suggested pattern"—creating X-wings and other vehicles with loose Lego pieces, rather than the pre-fab, collectible kits. Other exhibits are less playful. Gary A. Freitas' Singularity, a series of sculptures made from computer chips, combines relevant post-humanist insights with a strong visual appeal. Shaped like flowers or mandalas, these sculptures are intended to comment on the confluence of creativity and technology, humanity and digital consciousness."


OregonLive: "Art with an Attitude"
October 1, 2010

"An oil painting of a GPS route by Andrew Sgarlat, Haverford, cleverly subverts the trope of landscape painting in a relevant way. The two monolithic, Pollock-like paintings by Joseph Perez, Scottsdale, were made by breakers dancing directly on the canvases, the marks from their paint-coated hands and sneaker soles constituting a kind of full-body action painting. In a video adjacent to the paintings, dancers twist and pose as a DJ spins hip-hop records in the background. This marriage of street culture and art historical awareness may have been authored by an unknown, but work like it frequently finds its footing in the "official" art world."


Portland Monthly poses 10 questions
September 30, 2010

1. In such an inclusive exhibit, what pieces were EXcluded, and on what grounds?

2. Does this exhibit contend that “art is everywhere?”

3. Pantheists have been reported to say, “God is in everything—so why go to a church?” By the same logic: If art is everywhere, why go to a gallery?

4. If someone has acquired a well-preserved collection of artifacts, does that person become that collection’s “artist?”

5. There is undoubtedly an art to educational filmmaking. But there is also an art to baking a pie. Fixing a car engine. Cutting hair. Should everything that can be done artfully, be displayed as “art?”

6. Haven’t modern gallery-goers ever seen things like historical artifacts, amateur paintings, hoarders’ collections, or ethnic subject matter?

7. Will everyone who makes Lego spaceships, be thrilled that a gallery features a Lego exhibit, or be miffed that their work hasn’t been “discovered?”

8. Should every kid be proud that kids’ artwork is represented, or should every parent feel insulted that the display in the gallery so closely resembles the display on their home fridge—but offers no forum to their kids?

9. How did the masterful, precise black-and-white paintings get in this mix?

10. Is the Biennial’s ultimate intention to set an example to galleries to host more off-the-wall work, or is the point to get arts appreciators to look outside the proverbial box more often?


HuffPost Arts reblogs Cool Hunting
September 29, 2010

"The grassroots art campaign features an array of works spanning photographic documentation of military life in the heartland, video installations of biological activity in urban ecosystems to complex marble-like statues created out of soap bars."


People's Biennial Opening: PICA
September 25, 2010

Rudy Speerschneider 4

Joseph Perez3

Jim Grosbach

See more on ICI's Flickr...

Interview in TBA's Human Being
September 17, 2010

Click HERE to download the PDF.

Willamette Week blog
September 13, 2010

"Sometimes in the art world, a duet becomes a duel. Such has often been the case between the forces of elitism and the voices for populism in modern and contemporary art. Do you need a Master’s of Fine Art degree from a prestigious art school such as Yale or Pratt to deserve art stardom, or do good intentions count for something, too? TBA’s People’s Biennial takes this question on with spirit and sincerity, and while the answer to the quandary is still very much up in the air, the show does an effective job of framing the right questions."


Radio Interview
September 8, 2010

Listen to an interview with the People's Biennial curators on Portland's KBOO community radio!

Stream or download HERE

Artist Profiles: Pennsylvania
September 5, 2010

Visit the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery's People's Biennial blog HERE to learn more about the selected artists from Pennsylvania: Laura Deutch, Cymantha Diaz-Liakos, Jorge Figueroa, Maiza Hixson, Howard Kleger, Alan Massey, Andrew Sgarlat, and Robert Smith-Shabazz (pictured below).

Artist Feature: Bernie Peterson
August 30, 2010

Bernie Peterson (South Dakota) started carving soap in the 1980's. For People's Biennial, Peterson will exhibit a selection of these small sculptures produced with a paring knife in between 1983-1994. Although soap carving might sound like a strange choice of medium, it has a long history as a hobby and art. Originally started in Thailand, the activity became increasingly popular in the United States, with Ivory holding the first soap sculpture contest in 1924.

Check out PICA's TBA Festival 2010
August 20, 2010

Find out what all is happening during Portland's Time-Based Art Festival, including a film by Shirin Neshat and a presentation on the new Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP).

People's Biennial opens during TBA on Thursday, September 9, 8-10 pm!

Regular Gallery Hours:
Sept. 10 - Sept. 19, Every Day, 12 - 6:30 pm
Sept. 23 - Oct 17, Thurs - Fri, 12 - 6:30 pm; Sat - Sun, 12 - 4 pm


Curators' talk in North Carolina
August 3, 2010

Watch Jens & Harrell in Winston-Salem via SECCA's YouTube channel (9 parts):

Click here to be sent directly to YouTube.

Announcing the final list of People's Biennial artists!
July 16, 2010

Congratulations to the artists who have been selected for People's Biennial!

From Portland, Oregon (and environs)
Ally Drozd with Judge Evans and the Portland Community Court
Warren Hatch
Ellen Lesperance
Dennis Newell
David Rosenak
JJ Ross
Rudy Speerschneider

From Scottsdale, Arizona (and environs)
Gary Freitas
Jim Grosbach
David Hoelzinger
Beatrice Moore and The Mutant Piñata Show
Joseph Perez
Andrea Sweet
Paul Wilson

From Rapid City, South Dakota (and environs)
Caleb Belden
Mary Bordeaux
Nicole Harvieux
Jake Herman
Bob Newland
Bernie Peterson
Bruce Price
James Wallner

From Winston-Salem, North Carolina (and environs)
Sylvia Gray (with the Elsewhere Collaborative)
Jonathan Lindsay
Raymond Mariani
Jim McMillan
Jennifer McCormick
Presley H. Ward

From Haverford, Pennsylvania (and environs)
Laura Deutch
Jorge Figueroa
Maiza Hixson
Howard Kleger
Cymantha Diaz Liakos
Alan Massey
Andrew Sgarlet
Robert Smith-Shabazz

People's Biennial Curators visit:

June 28 - July 2, 2010




See more on ICI's Flickr...

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival Blog
June 28, 2010

people's beinnial poster

"Harrell explains that the curatorial process, even when curators seek out work from what he calls "obscurity zones" like Phoenix, Grand Rapids, and Portland, Oregon, tends towards artists who have already made a name for themselves. Logistically, this makes sense--with all the work out there, even the most adventuresome curators have a hard time discovering artists who don't already have some kind of commercial representation."


The Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College prepares for Harrell's visit
June 16, 2010

"right now, I feel a bit like mom must feel before a big party. on June 28, 2010, Harrell Fletcher, one of the curators for People’s Biennial, will step off a plane from Portland for a 5 day visit, and we want his time at haverford to be memorable. we are pulling together a list of philly sites for him to visit and gathering artist submissions for the big show."

Read more on David Richardson's People's Biennial blog for Haverford College. Here you will learn about the events taking place during Harrell's visit, learn how to submit or recommend work if you are from the Philadelphia area, and read about the process from the perspective of a presenting venue.

People's Biennial Curators visit:

May 20 - 22, 2010

Born in and from “the periphery,” the People’s Biennial, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), and their founding missions seemed destined to convene. SECCA was established in 1956 to provide exhibition space for southeastern artists who felt marginalized in a national context. Working as both catalyst and advocate, the scope of the organization subsequently grew to include thirteen southeastern states by the late 1960s. In more recent years that vision has become international in scope, but with an enduring concern for the issues and idiosyncrasies that shape the region. However, as previously under-represented Southern artists move fluidly into mainstream cities, the organization’s historical reason for being slides into question. Faced with redrawn territo-ries and proliferating galleries throughout the southeast, SECCA wrestles with questions of site-based identity, provincialism, and the imploding binary of center v. margin. Stand-ing inside and outside its namesake at once, SECCA’s peripheral predominance has consequently been replaced with the re-visioning of a “center” that – in geographic, se-mantic, and organizational terms – seems more elusive, and more fertile, than ever.

In this context, People’s Biennial is a timely, and very necessary platform to address the question of what being an “outsider” means today as an artist, an institution and a city. As a concept, exhibition and campaign, it navigates the ambiguous terrain between the Duchampian notion that everything can be art, and the hegemonic assimilation of objects made outside the discourse of “art.” As the co-curators of People’s Biennial step outside the usual parameters of the art world, their aim to find (and celebrate) people making/doing fascinating things unbeknownst as “art” raises captivating social questions. In an age of decentralized information/news, digital communication, self-publishing, and near instantaneous exhibition platforms on YouTube, FaceBook, personal websites and blogs, one no longer needs to wait for discovery. Bypassing the traditional (and often proprietary) enlistment of outsider artists by agents and galleries, the Enrichment Center in Winston-Salem offers a case in point – providing artistic training, exhibition space, and commercial opportunities for adults with disabilities. Flea markets, social networks and guerilla installations provide parallel avenues for other would-be artists – turning the in-side/outside binary, inside out.

Within the slurry, People’s Biennial plays out questions concerning authenticity, originality, and the often incestuous/imperial nature of art world dynamics. As SECCA has set out to actively solicit submissions from across the state, we’ve been met with a wide spectrum of reactions. For one, the rapid growth in the number of practicing artists has created a situation where competition for recognition is fierce. As such, the desirable opportunity given to purported “outsiders” to show work across the country (and have it included in a catalogue) has been met with disdain by “insiders” struggling to get a foot in the door. This response is especially understandable when considering the exotic value placed upon “outsider” artists by a system that covets the problematic nature of “purity.” The commercially-driven search for, and colonization of people making saleable artworks outside institutions has consequently led to constructed biographies, charlatans, and suspicions being cast across the entire enterprise. It has also created a backlash effect where many of those operating outside the system are doing so purposefully, and in active resistance to institutional discovery/exploitation. For these individuals, staking an “outside” position is more a matter of choice than circumstance.

At this ambivalent intersection, People’s Biennial opens up intriguing hybrids to individuals who had little previous knowledge about the co-curators, the biennial model, or Independent Curators International. Some are flattered by the invitation to participate in the project; some are bewildered; some are apathetic; others refuse. There is no discernable pattern at any point in the solicitation, but the fray we see unfolding says a great deal about the sometimes-contentious nature of this project. The events SECCA organized to introduce Fletcher and Hoffmann to the local community cast special light upon the People’s Biennial’s impact upon communal dynamics. Few participants from the pre-existing Winston-Salem art community attended, but the unifying theme that emerged at both the opening talk and ensuing “Show & Tell” event was one of camaraderie and exchange. With Hoffmann and Fletcher as catalysts, social clusters arranged themselves as finalists in the selection process shared their work with one another, as well as volunteers, passersby and a curious public. From traditional media (painting, photography, drawing, ceramics) to all manner of the untraditional – including dioramas, carved knife handles, custom designed shoes, facejugs, bicycle tricks, bottle labels, medical illustrations, and a Trojan Chicken made from stirsticks – common ground was found in, and through dialogue. No definitive answers regarding the role or place of “the periphery” emerged, but the questions surrounding them grew more compelling.

Beyond an exhibition model, a catalogue or a curatorial hypothesis, this is a social experiment where every action/incident/response is part of the ultimate project. As fodder for discourse, People’s Biennial has already succeeded before a single catalogue page is printed, or a single work goes onto the wall. Its anthropology, like that SECCA lives in the Southeast, will unfold outside conventional notions of “the outside.” Whether one is inside, external, on the fence, or passing through, the reaction to/for/against this project is a critical part of its evolving constitution.

Steven Matijcio
Curator of Contemporary Art
Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art

See more on ICI's Flickr...

Radio Interview on 88.5 WFDD, Winston-Salem
April 20, 2010

Listen to an interview with Harrell Fletcher and SECCA's curator Steven Matijcio on 88.5 WFDD's Triad Arts Up Close. The two discuss the concept of the project, the call for submissions to SECCA, and the upcoming curator visits to Winston-Salem on May 20th - 22nd.


People's Biennial Curators visit:
Rapid City

April 8 - 10, 2010

In January 2009, The Dahl Arts Center opened the doors to a newly expanded facility. While still tiny in comparison to art centers in more urban settings across America, it was a big upgrade for contemporary arts in South Dakota. The expanded, secure and climatically controlled gallery spaces definitely caused a shift in the conversations about what the Rapid City Arts Council could provide in the effort to fulfill a mission of “bringing art & people together to enrich lives and strengthen community”.

The People’s Biennial project seemed perfectly designed to address this part of our mission. It also looked like the kind of project that could help us build relationships with local talents that were not and may never be involved with the Dahl Arts Center without some specific encouragement.

So there we were, the fledgling arts center, standing at the edge of what seems like an ocean of new opportunities. The People’s Biennial project was like dipping a toe into the water, finding it neither too hot nor too cold, but perhaps a little scary, but not scary enough to keep us from jumping in with great enthusiasm. And this is what the staff, volunteers and a myriad of regional artists did.

While the goal of the project was clear, the parameters of what they were looking for seemed purposefully vague. It proved to be both a challenge and a unique opportunity to communicate with potential participants what no one, including the curators of the show, knew: what kind of art were they interested in? It seemed that anything and everything was going to be considered and with that in mind, marketing efforts were tremendously encouraging and totally inclusive.

In order to include as many participants as possible and to give the curators a real sense of the everyday challenges and opportunities that are unique to our area -travel was in order. In this land where we measure rain in hundredths of an inch, distance in hours and population by square mile rather than by square inch, we needed to get them out on the roads as much as possible during the few short days of their stay- experiencing the reality of the Black Hills and Pine Ridge and other parts of our community in the only way possible - by going to them.

With open call events at the Sacred Heart Church, Pine Ridge; Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, and the Dahl Arts Center, Rapid City, we also asked our community to come to us. And did the community show up! During such a short visit to our area, project curators Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffmann spoke with over 150 people who were interested in participating in their project.

We are very proud of the artists in our community, not only for the vibrancy they contribute to life in the Black Hills, but also for the enthusiasm and the courage they showed in response to this request to see their work. The Dahl is grateful to all of the artists who took the time to participate in this project. We congratulate all of them.

Mary Maxon
Curator of Exhibits
The Dahl Arts Center

People's Biennial in Rapid City

See more on ICI's Flickr...

Dahl Mountain Culture Festival Magazine
April 1, 2010

"The Dahl Arts Center is dedicated to choosing art for exhibitions based on community input, as well as to reflect all cultures in our region. It is the only arts center of its size in the region that engages a committee of community members-at-large to do this work. Most museum exhibitions are chosen solely by professional staff. The People's Biennial project extends the existing Dahl Process and opens an opportunity for regional artists to be chosen and exhibited across the country in a grassroots process."


nc artblog
April 1, 2010

"At this ambivalent intersection, the People’s Biennial opens up intriguing, and very necessary alternatives to an insider/outsider binary that continues to break down at every turn. In its wake, we are meeting people that gingerly traverse the public/private exhibition of their work. Some are flattered by the invitation to participate in the People’s Biennial; some are bewildered; some are apathetic; others refuse. There is no discernable pattern at any point in the solicitation, but the fray we see unfolding says a great deal about the importance of this project.

Beyond an exhibition model, a catalogue, or a curatorial hypothesis, this is a social experiment where every action/incident/response is part of the ultimate project. For those of you still reading, I encourage you to spread the word about People’s Biennial to every contact you have, and to pay special attention to the creative acts circulating through your surroundings. Whether inside, outside, on the fence, or passing through, your reaction to/for/against this project is a critical part of its evolving constitution."


Artforum's 500 Words by Harrell Fletcher
April 1, 2010

"The show was partially inspired by the artist Michael Patterson-Carver (not to be confused with Michael Bravo), whose career I helped launch. When I first met him he was selling his drawings on a sidewalk in Portland, Oregon, and now he has had shows in galleries and museums in New York, Paris, London, and Brussels. Not that I think there is anything wrong with showing your work on the street, but it is also nice to be able to break down the walls that normally prevent artists like Patterson-Carver from showing in mainstream art venues.

I want to level things out by drawing attention to work being made outside of standard art world circles. I’m not interested in hierarchies or creating distinctions between different kinds of people and the work they make based on where they live or whether or not they have a MFA. I think this kind of expanded view of what qualifies as 'art' and who can be called an artist, ultimately makes for a more interesting art world and world in general."


Phoenix New Times' blog
March 10, 2010

"The art community grapevine in this Valley is about three inches long, so it didn't take much time for me to get calls concerning a recent, very heated panel discussion at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SmoCA) about a show that's been proposed called 'People's Biennial.'"


People's Biennial Curators visit:

February 23 - 25, 2010

Some thoughts following the first People’s Biennial visit to AZ…

As a contemporary art curator, I grapple with my living and working in Arizona and thus my access to the larger art world center. I sometimes feel removed and out of the loop—longing to be able to attend the thought-provoking exhibitions, events and talks in New York or Los Angeles that I read about. And I wouldn’t mind if more of my colleagues could experience my own work first-hand. Yet, I relish the freedom to operate in an environment that allows me to experiment. Moreover, as one of a handful of contemporary curators in this community, I may hope to make a larger impact on my audience than I might in a larger art center. It is likely that this same dichotomy exists for artists working here. Consequently, I thought the People’s Biennial would be a valuable project for the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and one in which I wanted to participate.

The notions of periphery and center are integral to the concept of the People’s Biennial. For the curators, the terms are intended to apply not just to geography, but also to artistic and curatorial practice. Initially, I had been concerned that these ideas of periphery and center presented were conflated and therefore problematic. This aspect of the project is both fascinating and has been difficult for many in this community to understand. The practices of making and curating art are loosely and rather nebulously defined; they operate on a spectrum ranging from traditional conceptions to totally unexpected forms. However, as I came to understand the intentions of Jens Hoffmann and Harrell Fletcher, I realized that blurring of boundaries and semantic reconsidering is precisely the point. A particular challenge for me in light of the artistic production in this community is drawing a clear line between professional and nonprofessional artists—which is exactly why the project is provocative.

Jens and Harrell have uniquely open ways of encountering the world. After exploring my community with them, I felt inspired, like I had a new lens with which to view my city. I find myself noticing things more now, paying attention to church architecture as Harrell did and keeping an eye out for piñata stores and good hand-painted signage. I also realized that it was refreshing to discard the labels and categories that had previously concerned me. So maybe this exhibition will not be an opportunity for our smart and talented local artists to be considered for a biennial and gain national recognition, but it will surely be an opportunity for all of us to rethink why we value things like biennials, curating, or art in the first place.

Cassandra Coblentz
Associate Curator
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

People's Biennial in Scottsdale, AZ

People's Biennial in Scottsdale, AZ

See more on ICI's Flickr...

People's Biennial Curators visit:

February 6, 2010

People's Biennial in Portland, OR

People's Biennial in Portland, OR

See more on ICI's Flickr...

ICI Goes West to Portland
November 20, 2009

Artist/Curator Harrell Fletcher, PICA visual art program director Kristan Kennedy, and ICI executive director Kate Fowle discuss the upcoming ICI exhibition People's Biennial at the Lumber Room. Click here to be sent directly to YouTube.

Comments (0)

Add a comment


The People’s Biennial blog follows and documents Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffmann’s visits to Portland (OR), Scottsdale (AZ), Rapid City (SD), Winston-Salem (NC), and Haverford (PA), as the curators explore each community to conduct research, participate in lectures and roundtable discussions, and ultimately select works by local, non-established artists for the two year touring exhibition.

Exhibition Itinerary:

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
Portland, Oregon
September 10, 2010 - October 17, 2010

Dahl Arts Center
Rapid City, South Dakota
January 14, 2011 - March 27, 2011

Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
July 8, 2011 - September 18, 2011

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Scottsdale, Arizona
October 15, 2011 - January 15, 2012

Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College
Haverford, Pennsylvania
January 27, 2012 - March 2, 2012

People’s Biennial is a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by ICI (Independent Curators International), New York. Guest curators for the exhibition are Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffmann.  The exhibition, tour, and catalogue are made possible, in part, by a grant from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; ICI Benefactors Agnes Gund, Gerrit and Sydie Lansing, Jo Carole Lauder, and Barbara and John Robinson; and the ICI Partners.

About the Curators:

Harrell Fletcher is an artist who has worked collaboratively and individually on socially engaged, interdisciplinary projects for more than fifteen years; his work has been exhibited throughout the United States, and in Europe. He is a professor of art and social practice at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.

Jens Hoffmann is director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco and co-curator of the 12th International Istanbul Biennial. He has curated over three dozen exhibitions since the late 1990s. He was director of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London from 2003 to 2007. Hoffmann is an adjunct professor at the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, a guest professor at the Nuova Accademia de Belle Arti, Milan and a faculty member at Goldsmith College, University of London.