Photo courtesy of Olivia Obineme
At 26, many young adults are just starting to figure out what they want to do with their lives, or at least how the heck they’re going to support themselves. Then there’s Deana Haggag. In June of 2013, the 26-year-old was appointed director of the newly named and recently re-opened Contemporary. The former Contemporary Museum had suspended operations in May of 2012 after failing to raise funds for a new location. A newly minted graduate of MICA’s master’s degree program in curatorial studies, Haggag stepped up to head the museum, which is now nomadic. Sans a brick and mortar location, it will focus on presenting experiential art throughout the Baltimore community via collaborative programming with a variety of artists. In other words, it’s up to Haggag to steer this anchor-less ship in a fiscally responsible manner while delivering contemporary art experiences that will attract and energize audiences. Recently, I caught up with Haggag to find out how this bright, witty twenty-something plans to execute such a lofty plan.
You were an art history and philosophy major at Rutgers before pursuing your MFA at MICA in curatorial studies. Are you a practicing artist, a champion and appreciator of art, or both?
I am definitely not a practicing artist. I can barely write my name legibly. I happen to love the arts. I love defending the arts. When I applied to art school, I also applied to law school. Art school was a pipe dream. People told me lawyers aren’t getting jobs, there are too many lawyers, so you may as well do something you love.
As part of your master’s degree thesis, you worked with Gallery CA, a 90-unit artist residence in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, to better define the mission of the gallery for its residents and the broader community. Elaborate on that a little, and explain how that experience prepared you for this position.
City Arts is the building where Gallery-CA lives; it’s one of the first models of subsidized housing for artists. When the gallery was built, it didn’t have a solid plan for how it would work. When I went to school at MICA to study curatorial arts, someone had pitched activating the space. I worked closely with the building’s owners, and the larger Baltimore arts community, toward this goal. Read More →