UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As an art curator in New York, Penn State School of Visual Arts alumna Heather Bhandari aims to promote underrepresented artists by using a healthy mix of resources she has gathered during her nearly two-decade career.
After graduating with a master of fine arts degree from Penn State in 1999, Bhandari directed the Mixed Greens Gallery in New York. Shortly after the gallery closed in 2016 she joined her former colleagues Courtney Colman and Steven Sergiovanni to form The Remix, a project-based curatorial team established to exhibit the work of undiscovered artists.
Transitioning from directing a gallery and being responsible for filling its space has presented a new set of challenges for Bhandari, she said, one of which is simply finding the artists and a space to show their work.
“Independent curators have no set rules or pay. It’s both freeing and difficult, especially in New York,” Bhandari said. “We go to a lot of group exhibitions and M.F.A. programs and we’re always looking on social media. But the biggest way we find artists is through the ones we already know.”
When The Remix identifies new and talented artists, Bhandari and her colleagues share their stories on The Remix Podcast. The show, dedicated to interviewing artists and arts professionals about new models they see in the art world and how they are participating in changing the status quo, is entering its second season and new episodes are due out in January.
“It’s been a research project for us and we want to feature people who have different definitions of success and highlight them,” Bhandari said. “It’s about talking about the work you’re making in a real and deep way while you’re making it.”
Bhandari juggles her curatorial work with several other roles, including being the mother of two children. She is also an author and a lecturer at Brown University, and holds multiple board positions within the art world.
“I don’t sleep very much,” Bhandari joked. “But I love offering resources and connecting. The thing that brings me the most joy is working with artists directly.”
Next spring Bhandari and co-founder Dexter Wimberly will offer the first Art World Conference, April 25-27, 2019, a business and financial literacy conference that includes panel discussions, conversations and in-depth workshops addressing many of the opportunities and challenges faced by visual artists and arts professionals who work closely with artists. The New York event will bring together 300 artists and arts professionals at all stages in their careers.
Bhandari credits much of her success to the opportunities and connections she was offered at Penn State and development of the conference provides her with one more way that she can give back.
“There’s a lot of good karma in the art world,” Bhandari said. “And the art world I know and love is very generous.”