Erin Dziedzic ’03 is an art historian and current Director of Curatorial Affairs at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, where she oversees the exhibitions of contemporary art and accompanying adult public programs. Dziedzic earned her BFA in art history from UMass Dartmouth and grew up in Palmer, MA.
UMassD recently connected with Dziedzic to discuss her burgeoning career as well as the twists and turns she encountered when initially navigating a way through the world of arts.
UMassD: Tell us what inspired you to become a curator.
E.D.: “It was a little unexpected. I was on track to work toward becoming a professor when an opportunity at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where I did my graduate studies, was available to work in the exhibitions department in 2006 as Curator. I loved it; working with artists, making exhibitions in many different types of gallery spaces, solving problems, and sharing the artist’s ideas with different audiences really appealed to me.
Before that, I had been in the art education department at UMass Dartmouth with an art history minor. I was in a class with professor Severin Haines and he showed a short clip of Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta’s Body Tracks (1982) video and it was like a light bulb went off. I immediately started pursuing an art history degree. I wanted to research and write about artists."
UMassD: What have been the challenges and benefits of pursuing a career as an artist?
E.D.: "One of the biggest challenges would likely have to be time. There are so many projects I’d like to do but there simply isn’t enough time. I suppose that’s a little different now during COVID-19 given there is a little bit more time available to read, study, contemplate possible future projects and ideas, and hear from artists on the numerous zoom panels and talks available.
A real benefit has been meeting so many wonderful people. Artists are so engaged with the world on so many different levels. I know I’m going to learn something each time I meet with/talk with an artist."
UMassD: How did attending UMassD’s College of Visual & Performing Arts prepare you for your career?
E.D.: "The art history department’s professors, especially Magali Carrera, Memory Holloway, and Janine Wong, inspired me to pursue a career in art. It was so important to me to learn from women professionals in the field and to understand the important contributions they and other women were making in art. Their leadership prepared me to be professional, dedicated, articulate, and patient.
Also, I played field hockey for the Corsairs my entire undergrad, worked in the admissions office, and was for a little bit of time the photography department tech, so I needed to be focused. Having these experiences kept me on track."
UMassD: Are there any specific activities you participated in as a CVPA student that have had a positive impact on your professional life?
E.D.: "Field hockey was key. I really enjoy team sports and I am competitive. It taught me a lot about discipline, which I carried over into my studies."
UMassD: Any advice for CVPA students who aspire to enter your line of work?
E.D.: "I would say be curious, follow the topics exhaustively that interest you, and be open to ideas, criticisms, and joy that art and artists can bring into your life whether you are making it and/or writing about it."