Brittany Natale Went From Marketing Major to Art Curator
In the age of Instagram, chances are you look around at tons of cool girls on your feed and wonder, “how TF did they get to where they are now?”
Whether they’re influencers, creative directors, or fashion designers, they hold jobs that are a lot more difficult to navigate than simply graduating college, getting an entry-level position, and working your way up.
Another career path that reeks of mystery and allure? Being a curator. Like, for an art gallery, not for your Instagram feed.
We talked to Brittany about how she went from an advertising degree to being the curator in residence at a trendy Brooklyn gallery, what her work day actually consists of, and how art has changed with the rise of social media.
What does being a curator entail?
It’s a lot of research. A lot of being aware of what’s going on around you and staying constantly curious. I’m always on the computer looking up – not even purposely just subconsciously – different artists, galleries, events in the city and New York. Just a lot of research work.
How does one actually become a curator?
I wish I had a straight answer for this, but I don’t. It actually happened super randomly. I was interning in college at a gallery in Williamsburg and in the back of my head I always thought, “wow, it would be really cool to put something together and I have a lot of friends who are in the arts,” but I never thought I could do it.
Right after that, the gallery owner asked me to curate a group show in three weeks. I had 25 artists that were all based in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I did everything myself. My roommates helped me hang the art. I did all the press and outreach myself. Slowly but surely after that show I started gaining more confidence and about six months after that show I held a second artist show.
I went to school for advertising and marketing, I knew I wanted to do something in a more creative field though. I grew up in New York City and my mom went to Parsons and she was an artist and she always told us how cutthroat it was, so she kind of shied us away from getting an arts degree. That was a very confusing answer, but yeah, I guess it’s just getting involved as much as you can.
How many artists are involved in an average group show?
Oh my God, it is so different. I’ve been to group shows that have had three or four, which is really wonderful, but at the same time I’ve done shows that have had up to 70 artists. The show I did with Topshop had 35. And the reason why I like to include a lot of artists is that there are so many creative and talented artist out there that I want to help and give exposure to so people are aware. That’s why I love doing big, immersive shows. Kind of like what I did with Topshop, Teen Dream, Mood Ring, etc.
Do you worry about people going to your shows and not liking it?
No, I really don’t. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant or anything, but I guess I’m not in it for, you know — like it’s not like I’m looking for the New York Times to come do an art section review. I’m not worried about that because the shows I tend to do are more issue focused. Like for the Teen Dream show event, that focused on different issues that female identifying individuals go through, and for Mood Ring it’s all about mental health and mental illnesses because me myself – I have anxiety. So it’s more about the activism part rather than receiving critical acclaim or something.
Do you feel like curation has become a part of most people’s lives in recent years because of social media?
Oh yeah, totally. I was just reading an article in the New York Times about social media and it was saying that everyone has their lives – down to what they eat – curated so they can photograph it and show like a highlight reel of their life. So I think curating now is a loose term. I feel it was something once maybe reserved for the art world in a way, but now it’s bled into all different areas of life. Like I said, to the food they’re eating, the clothes they’re wearing, the places they visit…
At what point did you add “curator girl” to your Instagram Bio?
Good question! Probably last year. I became a curator in residence almost two years ago at a gallery in Bushwick. It’s called Wayfarers. So yeah, I became a curator in residence almost two years ago now and they’ve been really wonderful there. They gave me a lot of artistic freedom with what I want to show there and the events I have there. So I think after I was there for a little, I thought, “Okay, I guess I’m a curator now. Eh, I’ll add it to my bio.”
I asked that because I feel like “content creator” and stuff like that get thrown around on Instagram all the time.
It’s so weird because I don’t even think of myself as anything. I think of myself as a curious girl from New York City. It’s so funny that you say that, because I feel like “content creation” right now is the buzz word. It’s definitely interesting to see that develop over time.
Do you think that some people, especially with social media, almost seem to work more on their Instagram and promoting themselves than actually working on what they’re doing? Like their craft or their skill?
I’m not sure. I know for myself, I make sure that I don’t get too involved about my social media presence because at the end of the day I know that’s not real life. Social media is suck a crazy thing about how it evolved overtime. I don’t know if you remember Myspace in middle school and then it kind of faded and Facebook came. It’s like, what’s next?
Yeah it’s weird to think that the social media everyone is so obsessed with now could be gone
Yeah it’s so strange.
Like for someone who has a ton of Instagram followers, if something else gets big, then no one cares.
Okay, this is kind of a funny story. When I was in middle school, you know how there were Myspace famous girls? You know, everyone would have their few they’d check up on? I forgot their names, but I remember there were two girls that I would always look at their stuff. They lived in Manhattan, seemed like they had a fabulous life, all the coolest clothes. Then I found out they were my cousin’s best friends in real life. Like, years later. And they’re just normal girls who work and live in Manhattan. But it’s weird, I feel like Instagram makes people like characters almost.
So with Mood Ring, a lot of art in this show is pulled from “Insta-famous” artists. How have art shows changed, since technically anyone can look at the pieces online or on Instagram?
When I did my first show, which was over six years ago, it was harder to find them. Instagram existed 6 years ago, but I feel like it wasn’t as huge as it is now. I remember getting a Bushwick Open Studios program and writing down every name, going around neighborhoods to see what gallery had openings/what artists were showing. Instagram has definitely made it more accessible for people to show their work to others that might not be in their city or in their state. It made it easier, it’s just good. But at the same time it’s like crazy because it’s made accessible but unless you see it IRL it’s just kind of flat. That something I think of a lot.
So how do you think attitudes towards mental issues have changed with the rise of social media?
I think a lot more people are becoming more understanding of it. Aware of it. I think they’re becoming more compassionate of it because they’re realizing it is something super widespread. Its not something that’s isolated and doesn’t happen much. So I think it’s actually helping connect people and helping people find common ground and realizing that they’re not the only ones going through it.
It’s so funny because at the same time I was reading that New York Times article, I think the title is “Facebook is Making You Miserable.” It’s basically saying that people have this curated existence online and that can kind of make people upset like, “Why aren’t I doing that” or “They look like they’re having so much fun.” So it’s kind of like this weird area where Instagram, Twitter, Facebook is helping generate more awareness about this, but at the same time it could also be hurting people’s mental spaces.
You almost wonder, especially on Twitter because everyone’s talking about their depression. You wonder if all these people were suffering and just not talking about it previously? Or do more people have it now?
Yeah exactly! It’s interesting.
So what’s an average day at work look like for you?
Oh my God, I’m all over the place. If I’m doing a show, usually the week leading up to the show will be a lot of running around and installing, handling press releases, etc. Usually two days before I’ll do installs. For example, the show I did with Topshop I was in the gallery for like two or three days before all day. It’s really weird, it comes in waves.
Obviously it won’t be every day, but I try to make sure I have a work-life balance. So usually I’ll have a show or two scheduled, but at the same time I’ll make sure I still have time for my writing or my friends. Another thing I’ll do a lot since I have a degree in Advertising and Market Research, every so often take on a research project just to quiz my knowledge.
Yeah, it’s really weird. My resume is really random. It’s like “I’ve done stuff for The Economist, but I’ve also curated art shows!” It makes me feel more multi-faceted as opposed to doing one thing. It adds balance.
So you mentioned that sometimes for an art show you go make prints, do some of the artists you reach out to only have digital artwork?
I feel like that has happened before. Because with photography you can take digital, so they just upload it to Instagram, [or] if you’re doing something on Photoshop or illustrator. So I’ve definitely came across artists whose work has only existed online.
So you said your next show is on June 15th?
Yes! It’s at Tictail Market on the Lower East Side. They’re really great. It’s going to be the next leg of Mood Ring. I’m making Mood Ring a series. So it’s going to be living on through different events and shows that are gonna be planned throughout the summer and next year. So yeah, June 15th and I’m really excited!