The Department of Art, Art History, and Design (AAHD) has created a new Critic-in-Residency program to enhance discourse around the work of graduating MFA students. The program’s first resident, Thea Quiray Tagle, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Critical Ethnic & Community Studies Program.
“The Critic-in-Residence in AAHD allows nationally and internationally known art critics to come to East Lansing and to spend a week interviewing third-year MFA candidates about their aspirations as artists, their intentions for their thesis show at the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum, and their hopes for their future as contributors to visual culture,” said Tani Hartman, Chairperson of the AAHD Department.
“The Critic-in-Residence in AAHD allows nationally and internationally known art critics to come to East Lansing and to spend a week interviewing third-year MFA candidates about their aspirations as artists, their intentions for their thesis show at the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum.”Tani Hartman, Chairperson of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design
As the Critic-in-Residence, Quiray Tagle aims to develop collaborative relationships with the six MFA students through interviews and studio visits. She then will write reflective essays about the artists and their work to be published in the MFA thesis exhibition catalogue.
“It’s really important for me to work collaboratively with artists, whether they’re students or well into their career,” Quiray Tagle said. “That kind of relationship building and reflective practice of talking through the work together to develop new understandings — that’s the most important role that art critics, curators, and professors can play.”
Quiray Tagle was scouted for the Critic-in-Residency thanks to her work with AAHD’s Critical Race Studies Artist-in-Residency program. During the 2017-18 academic year, she wrote a catalogue essay for alejandro t. acierto, one of the two Critical Race Studies Artists-in-Residence that year, about his exhibition, In Absence of Sight. acierto’s work engaged with different histories of the Philippine-American War, U.S. colonialism, and photographic representation of Filipinos, all of which aligned perfectly with Quiray Tagle’s interests.
Quiray Tagle also has written an essay for Dan Paz, one of the 2021-2022 Critical Race Studies Artists-in-Residence, about their exhibition, hammer without a nail, that opened at (SCENE) Metrospace on March 3 and runs through Friday, April 1.
“The financial support to continue doing my work is amazing,” Quiray Tagle said. “There are so few opportunities to be paid well for art criticism outside of major grants, so an opportunity to change the discourse about contemporary art, while being supported to continue my writing and while supporting MFA students, is really exciting.”
For more than a decade, Quiray Tagle has curated and written about contemporary art and performance projects by Black, Indigenous, people of color, queer, and diasporic artists working in installation, photography, socially engaged art, film, and new media. She first found herself at the intersection of art and activism while completing her bachelor’s degree at Barnard College as she participated in the post-9/11 anti-war movements. The protests and artwork she encountered and created during that time catalyzed a career dedicated to amplifying politically engaged art.
“It’s really important for me to work collaboratively with artists, whether they’re students or well into their career. That kind of relationship building and reflective practice of talking through the work together to develop new understandings — that’s the most important role that art critics, curators, and professors can play.”Thea Quiray Tagle, inaugural Critic-in-Residence at MSU
“That was my entry point to getting to work, curate, and write about visual and performance art,” Quiray Tagle said, “and that ethics of what art can do to facilitate or shift conversations around political change is what keeps me doing the work I’m doing and writing about this.”
Quiray Tagle has both an M.A. and Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego, where she investigated the artistic productions of Filipinx and queer folks in the anti-eviction and housing justice movements in San Francisco. She has curated visual art exhibitions and performances for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Seattle University’s Vachon Gallery, The Alice (Seattle), and Feast Arts Center (Tacoma), and has organized public programs for venues including the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco). Her arts criticism and essays have been published online in venues including Hyperallergic, ASAP/J, and BOMB Magazine.
“Thea Quiray Tagle, our inaugural critic, was chosen for the depth and breadth of her publications on contemporary art, her interest in the human condition, and her sensitivity to the crisis of our era: diaspora, refugee resettlement, endemic racism, and environmental degradation,” Hartman said. “Quiray Tagle’s aesthetic is congruent with the content in the art made by our MFA candidates, and her essays will become the text of the MFA thesis exhibition catalogue.”
Since MFA students are often at a unique beginning point in their artistic careers, Quiray Tagle’s essays will help students reflect on their work, find the language to talk about their art, and amplify their voices. As the inaugural Critic-in-Residence, Tagle’s work with the program will set a precedent for future iterations and give MFA students the important opportunity to magnify their work to the public.
Written by Annie Dubois