10 Questions with Zoe Whitley

The Future Now Symposium is an exploration of 21st century culture through the mechanism of art, running 28 April – 1 May. This multidisciplinary four-day virtual event brings together key institutions, galleries, publications and artists for live-streamed discussions surrounding the most pressing issues from today’s creative industries. Through imaginative debates, panel discussions, career advice and cultural engagement, Future Now is a platform for idea generation. 

Future Now finds a new home in an accessible online space for 2021. This year, our sessions are available to stream from the comfort of your home. Ahead of this year’s event, we ask 10 questions with our key speakers.

Name, title and organisation?

Dr. Zoé Whitley, Director, Chisenhale Gallery. 

How would you describe your role?

I lead a wonderful team at a dynamic East End neighbourhood art gallery with an enviable international reach; we uniquely bring to life artists’ ideas by commissioning new works of art. As a non-profit organisation, Chisenhale champions the ambitious, the challenging and the innovative from living artists and collaborates locally and beyond to bring this work to wide audiences. On any given day, I’m an artist’s cheerleader, advocate and interpreter, a fundraiser, a goal-setter and a colleague. My role, very enjoyably, involves a lot of talking!

The best part about what you do?

Learning from artists, every day, in so many different ways.

Your most significant project to date?

Probably co-curating Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. We couldn’t have imagined it’d be seen by so many people 2017-2020 or that the book would have such a life of its own.

Favourite piece of art?

Beuford Smith’s photograph, Woman Bathing(1967).

The best in-person or virtual exhibition / event you’ve attended in the last year?

How about the one I most wish I could see now? Lorraine O’Grady Both/And at the Brooklyn Museum (full disclosure: I’m one of the catalogue contributors!)

Biggest take-away from 2020?!

I have a lot to learn about being still, being quiet and quelling my self-perception of being un-productive in any un-busy moments.

Lessons to take forward into 2021?

Being intentional about how Chisenhale can contribute to the creative wellbeing of our local community.

What are you most looking forward to exploring in your session at Future Now?

Listening to colleagues share their ideas and approaches from vastly different working contexts, especially now that everything’s in flux, large institutions are learning from those of us that are smaller and there are lessons to be gathered from other creative sectors’ best practices too. There’s just so much we can learn from one another, test out and keep trying again.

Other sessions you’re looking forward to attending?

Part I of the same topic, Curating During a Time of Change. I can’t just jump into the sequel! 

Zoe Whitley will speak on Curating During a Time of Change: Part II, Friday 30 April, 17:00-18:00 BST.

The Future Now Symposium runs 28 April – 1 May (Live), 2 – 31 May (On Demand). Tickets are available now, starting from £20.