Five for Friday: Independent Curator and Arts Administrator Adia Sykes
Five questions with the brilliant Adia Sykes, an independent curator and arts administrator.
Five questions with the brilliant Adia Sykes, an independent curator and arts administrator based in Chicago. She has realized projects with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Mayor's Office, Project Radio London, ACRE Projects, Sullivan Galleries, Woman Made Gallery, Material Exhibitions, Roman Susan Gallery, and Comfort Station. Adia also curated "Underexposed" right here at A+T this past spring.
1. Where do you find style inspiration?
I really adore the way the Emmanuelle Alt (Editor in Chief of French Vogue) dresses. She makes basics so chic. It would be a dream to have everything that Yohji Yamamoto designs in my closet. There's also a woman on Instagram called the Hoodwitch
) who is so so fierce and unapologetically bougie.
2. How would you describe your style?
AS: In grad school I used to call my style "sexy trash bag chic"--all black, oversized layers, strategically placed cut outs like open backs or sides, the epitome of comfort--which felt very art school appropriate. You'd still be hard pressed to find me in a color other than black, but it does happen on a rare occasion. I love playing with silhouettes and textures, and have started to dress in clothing that's not always oversized. It's a bit classic, occasionally sexy, definitely witchy, with a sprinkle of edgy.
3. If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
AS: My ideal dinner guest would have to be Zora Neale Hurston. She's considered one of the first Black anthropologists, was a prolific writer, and all around bad ass really. Imagine being a Black woman from the South and traveling extensively, oftentimes alone, in the 1930's. She hung around folks famous during the Harlem Renaissance and had an intense friendship with Langston Hughes that ended over a dispute about copyrights. My cat is named after her.
4. What advice would you give someone who wants to get into your profession?
AS: So you want to be an independent curator? The best advice I can give is to be prepared for a hustle. That starts with finding and being able to articulate your particular skill set and knowledge base. I wholeheartedly believe in that and stand in that truth. I didn't study art history, and saw that as a tremendous setback. Instead of trying to play catch-up with folks that have masters degrees in the subject, I found that using my background in anthropology I could craft a curatorial philosophy that leans into my interests and background.
Also, some of the best advice that I received was about networking. Someone told me to meet and connect with the person, not their position or institution. I keep that in mind whenever I meet new people at art events. Building meaningful connections (versus accumulating Instagram follows or comparing CVs upon meeting) is now my priority.
5. What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago?
I love to go out to eat. It's a past time that my wallet is not happy about. More than anything sharing meals with friends is what drives a lot of this. Whenever someone from out of town is visiting I take them to Beatnik on Chicago Ave. because the food is wonderful and the decor is like stepping into a verdant, Bohemian wonderland. For tacos (one of absolute favorite foods) it has to be Don Pedro's or Canton Regio for arranchera, and for tamales Yvolina's. My list is extensive and I could go on... Bonus Question: What is your favorite piece of jewelry?
My first real jewelry purchase was at a holiday market a couple years ago. I saw this incredible bloodstone ring that was cut almost in a coffin shape. I remember trying it on and circling back to it about three times before actually buying it.
Many thanks Adia for finding the time to chat with us! Want more? Check her and A+T owner Viviana speaking about representation in the art and jewelry community on the Perceived Value Podcast.
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