Curator, writer, and strategist for artists and non-profits, Rose Fredrick has spent the last three decades producing exhibitions that have not only raised considerable funds for scholarships and education, but have also launched artists’ careers. Her writing has appeared in Western Art & Architecture, 5280 Denver’s Magazine, Ovation, Southwest Art, ArtRevue, Breckenridge Magazine, and many others, and her essays and interviews have been used in workshops, college courses, and museum exhibitions. She has won the National Endowment for the Arts grant, Rock West Curator of the Year, Denver’s The Big Read, Best Multicultural Book from the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Awards. 



THE WINDING PATH

Because art was always something I did, I somehow failed to see it as a career.

I went to Cal Poly and majored in business. Smart. Practical. Useful. Everything was great until, as I neared graduation, I realized in a panic that I wanted a degree in the arts. I met with a counselor, discovered none of my classes would transfer, checked my bank account, and decided not to change majors. And yet, here I am. It all came together, art and business. My hope is that my path and what I’ve learned along the way will help you along your path.


THE MUSE

After college, I took a job in a beautiful Denver art gallery. It was the early 90s, I was living in a city for the first time in my life and every day was an adventure: walking to work or an art-house film, meeting friends for cocktails, living off beans and rice. I was poor, sure, but I was doing things my way.

The owner of the gallery, Carol Siple, taught me everything about the business—hanging and lighting, how to talk to collectors, make wall tags and write press releases—things I could have learned from anyone, honestly. Except there was this: Carol didn’t simply accumulate artists and display product; she shepherded a flock. Many times, I’d show up for work just before the gallery opened and find an artist in Carol’s office deep in conversation, as if communing with a priest.

Anyone can learn to light a show and make a wall tag. Very few understand how creativity flows. Thank you, Carol, for teaching me this and so much more.

Artists came to talk about family problems or deadlines, a poor review or financial stress. And Carol, in her composed, gentle manner would listen and ask questions to draw them out. Then she would offer whatever assistance or reassurance or advice they needed. I watched artists leave, their burdens lifted, if only for the moment.


ART AND FEAR

The studio can be an unforgiving beast. I realized, years after the fact, that Carol’s art was, in fact, to lighten the burden of fear or at least show artists a way through. Like Carol, I believe my true occupation is working with artists, listening, supporting, and encouraging them to create new dialogues, or as Joseph Campbell suggested, “to create new mythologies.” I know the business side, thank you Cal Poly, but I bring to it the desire to make everything I do feel like a work of art. To make every day a work of art.


DOES THE WORLD NEED ANOTHER BOWL OF ORANGES?

I did consider, after college, trying to make it as a painter. I worked at it on quiet afternoons when all the laundry was done, floors were swept, garden tended. One such afternoon, I was painting in a friend’s studio, a beautiful space in a converted Denver elementary school built in 1893. Wide plank floors, transoms over the doors, and huge windows on those old rope pullies, with glass that had grown wavy over time, as if it were trying to flow back to its source, quietly, without attracting attention. I was painting a bowl of oranges. The window was open, someone down the street was mowing their lawn. The light streaming in was lovely. Everything was perfect, except for the terrible headache I was fighting. I stopped painting and closed my eyes.

It was in that moment that I had an epiphany: the world doesn’t need another bowl of oranges.

Painting was not my calling. An artist dedicates her life to this. Everyone else is just playing at it. I was just playing at. What was worse, I realized, even if I did dedicate myself to painting, I had no original thoughts for it. I could copy, I could emulate, but I couldn’t visualize how to express anything unique within me. I cleaned my brushes and scraped the palette and never went back to the easel.

My art is playing the supporting role, guiding and listening with an open heart.

To this day, I haven’t looked back in regret. In fact, I’ve always looked forward to the next epiphany (there have been a few…I’ll tell you about them some time).


DICK CAVETT INSPIRES A CHILD OF THE 70s

Interviewing people is the other great joy I find in my work. I love hearing stories. I love learning about people so much that interviewing is second nature to me–another thing I’ve always taken for granted.

I believe a good interviewer does all the research and makes copious notes but, in the end, leaves the script behind and just lets it flow. The interviewer loses herself in it, keeps her voice to a minimum so that the interviewee can relax and let the memories slide forward. She makes the subject of the conversation feel comfortable, safe, and respected even if she disagrees. Too many interviews are about the interviewer—those conversations bore me.

The most important ingredient for a great interview is a deep sense of curiosity.

When I interview people, I think back to when I was young, and a man named Dick Cavett had a talk show on TV. I can’t remember details of those conversations, most of which undoubtedly went over my head, but I do remember how his interviews made me feel and how I learned that in spite of the strange clothing choices or fidgety, awkward behavior of his guests, if I simply listened like the curious child I was—without judgement—a far more complicated human emerged. I don’t recall Dick Cavett ever talking over people and I always got the sense he was utterly unconcerned about being right or looking good. This may not have been what he was feeling inside but it’s what he projected to me: a man who put his ego aside because this was about his guests, whom he was thrilled to be talking to.

And so, this is how I approach interviews: as my young self, curious and rapt, sitting in front of a treasured guest, asking questions like Dick Cavett would, then closing my mouth and waiting for the story to begin.

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