The interview with Darlene De Angelo, is the most recent of my “Behind the Scenes Conversations”. DeAngelo has been the Curator of Exhibitions at the Huntington Beach Art Center in Huntington Beach, California for the past ten years. I met Darlene in late 2006 when she made a studio visit to my studio in Encinitas,California in preparation for an exhibition she was putting together called “MANufactured”. I had previously seen several exhibitions at the center and had been impressed with the quality and scope of the shows. So, when Darlene wanted to include my work in her upcoming show I was honored - and since then, I have attended many wonderful exhibitions she has curated.
During our interview I learned about what drew Darlene to the visual arts, to California and eventually to the Huntington Beach Art Center. Darlene grew up in a small Pennsylvania town adjacent to New York City. During summers, her father organized long driving vacations to various locations in the U.S. When they would reach each destination, the family sought out cultural events to attend including street fairs, museums, and musical and art shows. When she was 12 years old, her family took an 8 week long driving trip across the country which Darlene described as a pivotal experience contributing to her pursuing a career in the arts. They made many stops in small towns, visited many cultural events and she learned about how communities operate.
Darlene later attended and graduated from the State University of New Yorks’ Museum Exhibition Design program. While there, she did an internship at the SUNY museum where she gained skills in managing a gallery. Later on she learned of a temporary job opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in the Publications Department and she was offered the position. When that job ended, the manager of the Mezzanine Gallery, (the contemporary art gallery at the Met), offered her a permanent position. While there, she was fortunate enough to work with Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Haas, George Segal and other well known contemporary artists to develop original prints, as well as travelling all over Europe to work directly with master printmakers to produce the final prints. She was also responsible for the gallery’s corporate program and worked with the museum’s contemporary collection.
Darlene worked at the Met for 10 years and then decided to follow her partner to southern California. Through contacts, she took a sharp job detour - she got a job as acting President for an Italian clothing manufacturer and though she felt it was good experience where she made a good income, Darlene decided to return to the visual arts. Having moved to the town of Claremont, Darlene was happy to be among the Claremont Colleges and the Graduate University campuses. There she was asked to be the director of DA Gallery, a non-profit space in nearby Pomona. Over the following ten years she helped grow the gallery in terms of the physical space, quality of work, as well as the development of art residency programs, member programs, community programs that included films, poetry readings and other unique events including bringing in artists from Berlin who did a residency that coordinated resulting exhibitions with the local art community.
When the position of Curator of Exhibitions at the Huntington Beach Art Center became available, Darlene made her next move. Over the following ten years, she has focused on cultivating the ‘contemporary art’ sensibility of the Huntington Beach community and beyond. She believes that the role of the community art center is to educate, stimulate, and expand the public’s thinking about what constitutes ‘art’ and she believes it is a “stepping stone” to visiting art museums and to understanding fine art - to get beyond the notion that art has to be “pretty”, and that it can be made out of any materials. Darlene describes it as “opening peoples’ eyes to what could be, introducing them to possibly “edgy and risky” fine art without shoving it down their throats”. Over the years, Darlene has added several programs to engage the community – poetry readings, “after 8” lectures and workshops that include writers, artist residencies, local businesses including those engaged in environmental products and issues, family arts programs, and after school programs to teach kids about curating art shows.
When it comes to advice for artists, Darlene had one main thought – “Do Your Homework”. She advises artists that before they seek exhibitions or gallery representation in general, they should be sure their own work is consistent with the work any gallery or institution currently has on their roster.