Advocate for the Arts
Andrea Andersson, The Helis Foundation Chief Curator of Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center, grew up in Jefferson Parish on the lake levee as part of a family of artists — painters, musicians, designers and writers. And that history has informed her work in the arts. “My grandfather was the director of the New Orleans Opera,” she says. “But my mother was a teacher, and I began my career as a university professor. I would describe my work today as a curator as just another kind of teacher, but one in a far more inclusive and expansive classroom.”
Andersson left New Orleans to attend university in Northern California, and she spent the better part of the last 20 years in New York. During that time, she taught at Barnard College at Columbia University and she worked as an independent curator, realizing exhibitions across North America. She returned home to NOLA with her Oregon-born husband, and children, just over three years ago.
She began as serving as The Helis Foundation Chief Curator of Visual Arts in 2015, where she now works closely with artists to organize exhibitions for the CAC, many of which travel to other museums domestically and internationally. “Since arriving at the CAC, I have organized exhibitions with Adam Pendleton, Rashad Newsome, Cecilia Vicuña, Sarah Morris and Jockum Nordström, among others,” Andersson says. “This fall, we will open three exhibitions of work by artists who live and practice in New Orleans: Zarouhie Abdalian; Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick; and Willy Monaghan.”
When it comes to choosing which artists to exhibit at the CAC, Andersson says the process for her is that of shaping a conversation — across geographies, disciplines and histories. “The CAC is also importantly an institution sited at the crossroads of European histories and those of the Global South,” she says. “I take this as an opportunity to invite artists who want to explore this specific terrain and its tensions.” Andersson is already planning for exhibitions through 2021, and she is excited about upcoming projects with artists including Mickalene Thomas and Sanford Biggers.
The CAC has a long and important history in the community — one that Andersson aims to continue. “It emerged in 1976 at a time when artists across the country were establishing alternative art spaces and models for art presentation,” she says. “We grow out of that important legacy — to hopefully keep the spirit of evolution and curiosity very much alive. The CAC has the opportunity, and I would also argue the responsibility, to invite the city to perpetually consider new forms, new shapes, new ideas. I know I am biased, but I tend to think that every truly great modern city must have a truly great contemporary art museum and a public that engages with it.”
As for future goals for the CAC, Andersson hopes and expects that the museum continues to be a place for dialogue. She is up to the task by presenting art that asks questions. “To do this in a meaningful way, we work as hard to build the community that participates in this conversation as we do the walls that support the art,” she says. “And that work never stops.”
Another way that the CAC encourages dialogue is through The Shop (a co-working space located upstairs at the CAC that brings together creative professionals in a shared environment). “In its structure, it points to new shapes of economies and communities,” Andersson says. “For the CAC, it is exciting to have a built-in community of people curious about the future of this city. And it is our job to infuse their experience with and shape their ideas by powerful art.”
Andersson recently served as a brand ambassador for Tiffany & Co. during the first of four dinners designed to celebrate and explore art and community that will take place in cities across America. The intimate dinner took place at the home of art collectors Kendall Winingder and Patrick Schnidler, and feted Paper Flowers, the new collection designed by Tiffany’s chief artistic officer Reed Krakoff. “We brought together a table of artists and philanthropists, chefs and musicians,” Andersson says. “Nina Compton personally prepared a dinner in honor of the last fruits and flavors of summer, and Leyla McCalla gifted the night with her Haitian songs. The artist Mickalene Thomas was able to fly in for the evening. And what better way to honor Tiffany’s new line than to install local artist Courtney Egan’s projections of blossoming buds? We are so grateful for Tiffany’s support of our exhibitions, but moreover for their interest in the work of artists and art production in New Orleans.” 900 Camp St., (504) 528-3805, cacno.org