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Craft curator Nora Atkinson takes us on a trip to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to see the beautifully designed and participatory art of Burning Man, revealing how she discovered there what’s often missing from museums: curiosity and engagement. “What is art for in our contemporary world if not this?” she asks.
Running time: 10 minutes
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Nora Atkinson is the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum Washington, D.C. As she writes, “I was born and raised in the Northwest, and I find my perspective heavily influenced by its laid-back, pioneering spirit. After earning my MA from the University of Washington, I intended to curate art, but fell into the unusual specialty of craft, which appeals to me as a way of living differently in the modern world that tells us something about being human; I continue to be fascinated by the place of the handmade in our increasingly digital age.
“In 2014, after eight years at Bellevue Arts Museum, I moved to DC to join the Renwick Gallery. I attended my first Burning Man in 2017 as research for my exhibition ‘No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,’ which explores the event as a creative laboratory and one of the most important cultural movements of our time. As a curator, I tell stories through objects, and I want to teach people to approach the world with curious eyes and find the magic around them. My work is as much about inspiring people as transmitting knowledge.”