Michael McCall is the Executive Curator at Yucca Valley Visual & Performing Arts Center in Yucca Valley, CA.
did you first realize your passion for the arts?
I was always the kid drawing at his desk, not paying attention to the teacher…
when the 1st Grade teacher one day took me to the 6th Grade class to show them
how I could cut designs into folded paper, I knew this was the start of
something I would do, I didn’t know what an artist was, but it was fun to stand
up in front of those bullies and show ‘em who was boss.
did you come into being a curator?
I was always doing the bulletin boards at school, designing the imagery my
classmates would see. During my MFA
schooling, I was involved in an invitational exhibition that continued for ten
years afterwards, from Key West to DC to Duke University, even to a commercial
gallery which was a stretch because nothing was for sale in the show. I’ve
always been putting other artists’ work in front of viewers, trying to help my
artist friends and expand the public’s perceptions of contemporary artworks.
The position I hold now as Executive Curator at YVarts allows me the venue to
develop scholarship and back those thoughts and ideas by selecting the imagery
to present artwork to the public, and that is very rewarding.
your current work with the Yucca Valley Visual & Performing Arts Center
align with or differ from what you originally envisioned it to be?
I didn’t come into this blindly, I understood
what was expected of me. The position is political at times. I was told by my
friends to make this work I would have to become more diplomatic. I was a
little naïve to believe I could navigate between artists, the greater arts
community, and the people who pay my salary without a few setbacks. My goal is to support all the artists - a
utopian concept, but pretty impossible. Choices have to be made. What I want to
do in this position is motivate and inspire all artists to get better, to
expand their own ideas and go beyond their limitations in developing their
work. They are individuals, communicators of concepts and ideas. At the same
time, I want this Arts Center to expand and support the arts community, to
present the incredible talented artists I find in this area and beyond the
boundaries of the hi-desert.
from being a busy gallerist, you are also an artist. Do you find that you have
enough opportunity to express your own creativity?
As far as spending enough time in my studio,
from the time I got out of art school, there was always the challenge of
finding a way to pay for that time. To stay focused in that studio, you have to
block out a lot of the daily demands. Having a more-than-full-time job doesn’t
allow the concentrated amounts of time needed to move the studio work forward
like I did before becoming a gallerist.
It becomes frustrating and challenging to do both.
primary goal is to be a creative person. I have developed ways to use many
mediums, sometimes in and on the public stage, while using social media to
promote my creativity, not by just isolating in the studio and hoping someone
is going to see those creations. As a
multi-disciplined individual, I can be creative anywhere, anytime. One of my
strengths is my ability to organize my time, to organize the demanding
variables of everyday activities.
do you find most rewarding about gallery directing/curating?
Meeting the artists, visiting their studios, and trying to help them in ways I
are some of the challenges that you face?
My biggest challenge is to stay patient with the artists who are not
professional with the nuts and bolts of being an artist. All of our jobs are
hard enough. If an artist can come to the table prepared, give me what I need
to promote their work, to include them in my programming and in the manner that
doesn’t create more work for me, I am very appreciative.
there certain qualities that you look for in artists in deciding whether they
will be pleasurable to work with? And on the contrary, any areas for
improvement artists should be aware of?
We all have to understand we are in this thing together, and that egos have to
be checked at the door. When an artist can show a sense of humbleness in the
light of being a fantastic talent, I am usually impressed and feel they will be
a pleasure to work with. When an artist thinks they are the cat’s meow and I sense
they are not a sharing person, I tend to back off, no matter how good they are.
you have any specific do’s and don’ts for artists looking to submit their work
Here’s a few do’s and the don’ts:
the demands of the administrative responsibilities to do my job, I generally
don’t have time to ‘google’ it or look at artists’ websites. What I ask for is
a very simple email inquiry with a few jpegs of a couple artworks that are
indicative of their body of work they want me to be aware of. That way I can
build files for future reference when I am designing an exhibition. That’s how I do it.
far as the don’ts… when I have failed to get back in touch after you have made
your inquiry, have patience - understand
that my time is limited in answering, and that sometimes I cannot answer.
Secondly, when I’m in the public arena or at an opening, don’t pull out your
cell phone and try to show me what you are doing. Email me or make an
appointment during gallery business hours. Try to understand I can’t be
there any misconceptions about your position as gallerist in which you face
from the public?
The main misconception is that we are
well-staffed at YVarts. I am the only staff member of a very ambitious project called
the Yucca Valley Visual & Performing Arts Center. We are a newly developed
non-profit art space in the hi-desert. In the past two years, countless people
come to me with ‘suggestions’ on how to make this place better. We are a
volunteer organization, and I need you to help by volunteering time to make
this the place what it can be. Don’t tell me how, show me how, pitch in
with more than words and your suggestions.
you have any plans for the gallery curation, and your own work, beyond what is happening
As for the curatorial duties, we just opened
our biggest exhibition thus far, MOJAVE MADNESS. I am very proud of this
effort, I made over 3 dozen studio visits to the artists of the Mojave Desert
to find and exhibit their passions. But, as always, I’m working on the next
show, on next years’ ideas for shows. That keeps my mind open and ready to look
at more, allowing me to find new artists, challenging me to overturn the next
stone and find what’s underneath.
for my own work, my memoir, Captain Squid & the Tentacle Room has
just been published by Fabrik Media. For
the moment, I have the opportunity to promote my own artworks in conjunction
with this memoir. I spent 15 years writing the story, attempting to relay what
it is like to be a practicing artist for 50 years, living through the
incredible ups and downs of a profession that is both demanding and unrewarding
at times. The reward comes when my creative soul is connected to the Devine
spiritual entity that helps me make positive decisions in living a life of
fullness. I get up every day with enthusiasm and aliveness to explore, to live
in happiness and contentment.