Leah Triplett Harrington is the newest addition to Now + There’s small but dynamic staff. Leah joined Now + There in January 2019 as a full-time Assistant Curator to provide crucial support to our projects, including the Public Art Accelerator. Bold curatorial vision is central to the work we do, and we’re thrilled to welcome Leah to N+T.
You may know Leah from her previous journal entries as our critic-in-residence, exploring the history and legacy of public art in Boston. Today, we sat down with Leah to talk about the future: her vision for great public art curation, her excitement for creating new connections, and her passion for championing the work of local artists.
Now + There (N+T): You've been part of Boston's art ecosystem for a number of years now -- what are some of the most meaningful projects you worked on and what did they bring to the city?
Leah Triplett Harrington (LTH): I’m incredibly fortunate to be part of Boston’s strong, welcoming, and varied art scene as a writer, editor, and curator. In my almost 10 year experience (!!) here in Boston, I've found our city's art community to be receptive and supportive of new ideas and people. I've had the great pleasure of writing about artists and editing other people's writing for Big Red & Shiny, and last year I co-founded The Rib, a publication that, like BR&S, seeks to provide critical dialogue for artists working outside of major urban centers.
One project that's been particularly gratifying and fulfilling to me is “Under a Dismal Boston Skyline”, an exhibition I co-curated (with Lynne Cooney and Evan Smith) for Boston University Galleries last fall. The exhibition reexamined Boston School artists like Nan Goldin, David Armstrong, Gail Thacker, and Mark Morrisroe, active here in the 1980s, and considered their legacy on artists who have likewise challenged identities and communities in the ensuing decades. This show felt like a love letter to Boston, and I hope it encourages a new understanding of the critical, dynamic art making that the city has incubated over the last few decades.
Creating connections between people, places, and ideas is extremely gratifying to me. In my writing, editing, and curatorial work, I want to be a conduit for new or different ways of seeing and understanding. Ultimately, I want to tell stories, to create narratives, but more importantly, to champion new narrators. It's the person behind the project that's most significant to me.
N+T: We're grateful you've been an N+T champion and collaborator from the start -- what are you most excited about bringing to the team as a full-time staff member?
LTH: Where do I begin? N+T has a proven track record of bringing rigorous, topical, and engaging artworks to Boston. I’m honored to be part of that story and to be on a team that supports bold, artist-centric work.
To work directly with artists, parsing their practice and shepherding their work into the world, is why I do what I do. I love putting artists in dialogue with each other, contextualizing contemporary work with historical precedents and vice versa. There’s nothing better than a day of studio visits, but there’s also nothing quite like hunkering down in an archive to sleuth out obscured contexts or connections. If loving research is wrong, I don’t want to be right!
The N+T team is a passionate bunch, and I’m excited to part of a group that supports and encourages each other’s interests and enthusiasms. I think we motivate each other to bring our best games, while also championing each other through challenges. I’m thrilled to work closely with this team of powerful women.
N+T: Beyond our projects, what kind of impact do you see Now + There having on the arts in Boston?
LTH: Now + There is building a public art city, which to me, means we are (in a nutshell!) fostering new modes of support for art and artists. This means we embolden artists to experiment, and we challenge audiences to participate fully in those experiments by checking their preconceptions. This means we are prompting art to become more embedded in everyday experience, to be expected but not taken for granted. This means not only sensitively siting artworks in "public" spaces but questioning the idea of public space and facilitating a dialogue wherein a multitude of voices can be heard. This means empowering critical voices. Ultimately, I think we are enhancing our historic city with nuance, making it a better, bolder place.
Leah Triplett Harrington is the Assistant Curator at Now + There. Be sure to check out her work as our former critic-in-residence: we think Leah’s series on public art in the 1980s is a must-read for anyone interested in Boston history and the evolution of public art-making.