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Meet Claudia Pretelin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claudia Pretelin.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I am a Mexican art historian, independent curator, and arts administrator based in Los Angeles, California since 2018. I hold a B.A. in communications and I received my M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). My academic work has specialized in photo history and contemporary art. My curatorial practice focuses on understanding the processes by which individuals and groups remember and interpret memories through contemporary art practices.

In 2016, after I moved to the United States, I created a blog called Instruments of Memory (IoM). Over the years, the blog evolved into a site that documents conversations with women in the arts published as interviews and oral history. In the last two years Instruments of Memory has become a growing community that seeks to promote the work of women from different latitudes through in-depth conversations, exhibitions, and programming with different community partners.

We are still a very small team. I curate all the content for the website and social media. My husband Benjamin Tucker is the editor and content advisor. We occasionally collaborate with Sarah E. Webb, a writer based in Rochester, New York. So far, we have published over twenty interviews with artists, conservators, writers, choreographers, projectionists, and activists in the US, Mexico, El Salvador, Spain, Costa Rica, India, and Canada. We are partners with Studio 203, an artist-run space in Los Angeles, and the Women’s Museum of Costa Rica, the first feminist museum in Central America.

Our first exhibition opened online in 2021 and it was a collaboration with one of our interviewees, Rosina Herrera, the photo conservator at the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam. Through an open call, we invited photo collectors, photo lovers, and the general public to submit digital images of their photographic objects that memorialize or help trace the history of the image, a moment worth remembering, or a historical occasion. We had amazing participation from more than ten countries and we selected 29 participants to show their family photographs or photographs from their collection in an exhibition called Above and Under the Surface co-curated between Rosina and me. This exhibition opened online on October 15th, 2021, and closed on March 15th, 2022.

In February of this year, we opened our first in-person art exhibition also titled Instruments of Memory at Studio 203 in Palms, featuring the work of Dana Funaro, B. Neimeth, Aneesa Shami, and Patricia Yossen, four artists based in LA. My collaboration with these artists began as a conversation for the site but then I realized that it was important for IoM to bring together the work of these artists into a physical space. With practices spanning ceramics, painting, photography, fiber art, and sound, the artists investigate how places, landscapes, remains, and objects produce and affect identity and how memory is linked to the tactile and intuitive qualities of the materials. This exhibition will be on view through April 30 so I hope your audiences can visit it!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Moving to a different country is always exciting but it also has its challenges. It changes you in ways you’re not expecting. When I moved to the United States, I had to start over. With a Ph.D. under my arm, my first job was working the box office and concessions at a local movie theater in Rochester, New York. Slowly by volunteering at first, I got involved with local art organizations and found a job working for the Rochester Contemporary Art Center, assisting and coordinating art exhibitions and a variety of art events with national and international artists.

When my husband was presented with the opportunity to work in Los Angeles for the American Cinematheque, I was incredibly happy and proud of him but it meant that I had to quit my job and start over in a different city where I didn’t really know anyone.

I came to LA a year before the pandemic with no real job opportunities, or so I thought. Since my arrival, I have worked a variety of jobs as a freelance advisor and arts administrator for artists, assisting and coordinating art fairs, exhibitions, auctions, biennials, and fundraisers with non-profit organizations in both Los Angeles and Rochester, NY.

Through these projects, I have found a community of women who are as passionate as I am about art and about their own careers. It is challenging to create a digital space as ambitious as this project is with no funds. But so far, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with people who love what they do and understand that promoting the work of other women in the same situation is an investment with a lot of rewards. My goal is to find funding to be able to develop more art experiences that investigate how the places we live, the landscapes we experience, the remains, and objects we carry with us produce memory and impact our identities, particularly from a gender perspective.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
As an arts administrator during my professional career, I’ve been coordinating and assisting with the planning, execution, and management of over 20 exhibitions, art biennials, art fairs, and festivals organized by international art organizations in Mexico, New York, and Los Angeles. After almost 20 years of working in the arts sector, I still get excited every time I start a new job, a new project, or meet a new artist.

How do you think about happiness?
Professionally what makes me happy is to be able to work with a wide variety of artists and arts organizations from different parts of the world. I really enjoy having conversations with artists, art administrators, curators, organizers, and sometimes after those conversations, we find a project to collaborate on together. I’ve been lucky to work with internationally renowned artists as well as with emerging artists. To be able to become a facilitator to show their art to different audiences is something that I really enjoy. Whether it is an art opening, a public program, an art auction, or an art biennial, I treasure every experience and try to learn from it so I can help other people to connect with art and to create dialogue around it.

On a personal level, what makes me happy is spending time with my family, going to art exhibitions, to the movie theater to see films projected on the big screen, traveling to new places, and meeting my reading goals, 25 books per year!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Photo 1. Image credit: Bryan Murray Photos 2-9 Image credit: Gina Clyne

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