Nov 5, 2014

Curator Pedro Alonzo Discusses his "Open Source" Exhibition

by: RJ Rushmore

This afternoon, we announced Open Source: Engaging Audiences in Public Space, one of our major projects for 2015. Open Source is a groundbreaking outdoor exhibition of temporary public artworks, created by leading names in the contemporary art, community-based public art, and street art realms. The exhibition is being curated by Pedro Alonzo, a Boston-based independent curator who has specialized in producing exhibitions that transcend the boundaries of the museum walls and spill out onto the urban landscape. We are still almost a year away from the culmination of Open Source, but we sat down with Pedro to get his thoughts on the exhibition so far.

For the last few years, “street art festivals” have been popping up in cities all over the world, and you’ve curated street art festival-like mural projects before. Why not do a street art festival in Philadelphia? What makes Open Source different?

Due to the limited attention museums and cultural institutions have dedicated to street art, the festivals have proliferated globally, resulting in a festival circuit. A select group of artists are painting similar murals in different cities around the globe. The abundance of murals has affected the novelty, substance and defiant intent behind the origins of the work. I did not want to add another stop on the circuit.

Open Source will feature a variety of artists working in distinct disciplines and genres. This is not a street art festival, it’s an exhibition of contemporary art in public space. 

You’ve been visiting Philadelphia regularly for over a year now. What interests you about the city?

Philadelphia is a fascinating city, a city of extremes. I grew up on the border in Tijuana and San Diego which is one of the most dramatic border crossings in the world. In Philadelphia, it is as if the border has dissolved and the extremes are mixed intersecting and surrounding each other. Philadelphians have a sense on ownership of their city that I have rarely seen.

What do you consider the role of a curator to be, and how does that fit into a community art-making process?

The role of the curator is to mediate between the artist, the institution and the public. My role at Mural Arts is to create an opportunity of mutual interest by selecting artists whose practice will be enhanced by working with the organization’s existing programs and infrastructure. Thereby enhancing the programs.

You’ve gained a reputation for being the curator who brings street artists into major museums, but now you’re going to be bringing major museum artists into public spaces. What do you think the challenges will be?

I don’t foresee any challenges per se but I am very interested in the communities response to different forms of expression coming from Mural Arts.

Why should all of the different artists that you’ll be working with for Open Source cross paths?

There are many unperceived similarities and shared interests that I hope to reveal and explore through the exhibition.

What do you hope to gain from working with Mural Arts Philadelphia?

I have learned a great deal about audience and community engagement from Mural Arts. This is something that I will take with me to all my future endeavors.

Photo by Steve Weinik

Last updated: Mar 21, 2016

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