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New curator seeks to bring socially engaged contemporary art to Palm Beach County museum

Arden Sherman at the Norton Museum of Art.
Photo courtesy of Yvonne Bertucci zum Tobel
Arden Sherman at the Norton Museum of Art.

The Harris Gallery at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach has floor to ceiling glass walls that overlook a subtropical sculpture garden.

It's where contemporary art meets nature — an apt spot for new arrival Arden Sherman to lay out her vision.

The museum’s incoming contemporary art curator, a native Floridian, says she's looking forward to combining her passion for socially engaged art with the outdoors.

Before Sherman came to the Norton Museum of Art, she was director and curator at Hunter East Harlem Gallery, a multi-disciplinary space for art exhibitions and socially-minded projects located at Hunter College in New York City.

“And what I built there was a gallery that was dedicated to socially engaged art and socially minded projects,” she said. She thinks that taking a site-responsive approach to art-making and exhibition-curating is important in contemporary art.

South Florida has played a significant role in bringing contemporary art into the mainstream. Art Basel, which just celebrated its 20th year, has been an important part of that.

“Art Basel really set the precedent of making South Florida a destination. And, I think it’s really on the map center of contemporary art now,” Sherman said.

The fair, and what it has brought to the South Florida art scene, was a big reason why Sherman decided to relocate from New York City.

“Knowing that South Florida really was engaged in these conversations that are now not only national, but international conversations around important contemporary art and around important art histories is important to me,” she said.

Sherman’s specialty is socially engaged art.

“So many artists think about the human condition, their surroundings and their environments, their politics, their personal identities. These things play into art-making now. So it's hard to have the conversation of contemporary art without thinking about a socially minded practice as well,” she said.

Sherman adds that one of her goals as the new curator is to attract both younger and older audiences to the museum.

Originally from Tallahassee, Sherman is thrilled to be in South Florida. “The land is flat and the skies are big,” she said.

Sherman is planning on utilizing this new environment with contemporary art. She is looking forward to looking at public spaces, outdoor sculptures, performances and time based works that could take place outside. “I'm looking to the environment as being a nurturing space for contemporary art production," she added,

Yvonne Bertucci zum Tobel discovered public radio during a road trip in 1994 and has been a fan ever since. She has experience writing and producing television news. As a freelance reporter for WLRN, she hopes to actively pursue her passion for truth in journalism, sharpen her writing skills and develop her storytelling techniques.
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