Caleb Bell is the curator at Tyler Museum of Art. His duties include putting together or obtaining the exhibits presented at the museum.
Bell often uses art in the museum’s permanent collection and borrows art from other museums and private collections to assemble exhibits that present the work of regional artists in new and thought-provoking ways.
What is your background in art and how did you end up at Tyler Museum of Art?
When I began college, I started visiting art museums and galleries quite frequently. I knew I wanted to work with art, I just wasn’t sure to what extent. I studied public relations/advertising and art history at the University of Texas at Tyler. I was initially hired as the public relations and marketing coordinator for the Tyler Museum of Art in early 2012.
In 2014, I began working on exhibitions and officially became curator in 2016.
Even now, I visit galleries and other art museums as often as possible. You never know where an idea for the next exhibition might come from. I also try to read as much as possible about current trends in the art world as well as museum practices. It is very important to me to continually learn and further my knowledge.
What is Tyler Museum of Art’s mission?
The Tyler Museum of Art’s mission is to provide an educational and enriching fine arts experience to the Greater East Texas area and beyond. To that, I try to organize and present exhibitions that might not be seen in other museums or galleries.
I really strive to provide unique experiences for our visitors. We self-organize almost all of our exhibitions.
What duties does your job include?
To put it simply, my job is to decide what we are going to show and how it is going to be displayed in the gallery once it is here. However, there is a lot of prep work that takes place before an exhibition goes on display.
I meet with artists to discuss and decide what work we are going to show. I also work with gallerists and museums to locate works for exhibitions. There is a lot of research and planning that goes into each exhibition.
Once we get the work here and start installing, I design the layout and flow of the show. Even though I already have it laid out on paper and in my mind, it changes sometimes once everything is actually in the space.
To accompany the exhibitions, I write label text to give visitors more information about the works as well as produce gallery guides to provide a larger overview of the exhibition.
Additionally, I organize events, such as lectures, around the exhibitions to help expand the viewer’s knowledge and understanding of the work.
What are some factors you consider when choosing an exhibit for the museum?
When putting together an exhibition, I think about a lot of things. First, I think about how our community will perceive it. Is it something they would like or need to see? I also think about how it fits into the Texas art scene and beyond. Has it already been done? What is the artistic significance of the exhibition?
I try to think about how we can program around it, too. For instance, we recently partnered with the Literacy Council of Tyler to present “Books, Books & More Books,” which is on view through Nov. 10. With them, we are able to collaborate on a number of smaller programs and bring several groups of their students to visit.
What are some things TMA does to enhance the visitor experience?
We often put together lecture series and other programs to enhance the conversation around the art. We also offer free guided tours of the exhibitions at 11 a.m. on every first Friday of the month. Every second Saturday of the month is our Family Day. Family Day, which is also free and open to all ages, features art activities related to the current exhibitions.
We also recently launched an audio guide. It spotlights several works in each exhibition and provides viewers with more information about them.
BONUS QUESTION: What are some of the exhibitions coming up?
Coming up, we have an exhibition of works by the late Joseph Glasco. He was an abstract painter who grew up here in Tyler. That exhibition opens in November. To finish out the year, we are presenting an exhibition of Laura Wilson’s photographs of the American West. It opens in December.