She’s an Independent Curator & Arts Advocate, An Exclusive Interview with Jonell Logan, Founder of 300 Arts Project, LLC
Jonell’s worked at a number of arts organizations including The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of Art; Studio Museum in Harlem in New York; the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, South Carolina; and the Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jonell currently serves on the board of The Light Factory.
Q: For those in our audience not familiar with the 300 Arts Project, can you tell us about the organization and your role as Founder?
JL: 300 Arts Project happened suddenly but was a long time in the making. I had been working in a toxic environment and had in a moment of perfect and unexpected clarity, decided to quit. In that moment, I knew that I wanted to start a consulting company that would help museums and cultural institutions be more inclusive, support emerging artists, and build relationships between people and the arts. I had already spent 10+ years working in museums, including some of the major institutions in New York. I understand how these entities work.
300 Arts Project was created to help artists, art lovers and organizations to work collaboratively, expand their narratives, and connect with people who are often excluded from these spaces. Since founding 300 Arts I have curated exhibitions, trained museum staff, counseled artists, and assisted in the development of organizations’ strategic plans in over twenty cities around the country.
Q: You’re also a teacher, tell us some of the courses you lecture on?
JL: I have taught both graduate and undergraduate courses in art and art history in NY, NC, and SC. I am currently teaching a graduate course at Winthrop University.
Q: What has been your greatest accomplishment so far with 300 Arts Project?
JL: This is a tough question. I often don’t think of things being accomplished because in my head there is so much more to do. I will say that the Kidnapped Pagan’s project that I did here in Charlotte was a real moment for me. We were able to pull off something that no one had really done before – as an independent curator partnering with the Mint, Center City Partners, and an independent property owner to bring artwork to various communities in Charlotte. Antoine Williams’ work, which engages in questions of identity (both self-defined and projected) could be seen in the museum, on newspaper kiosks throughout Uptown Charlotte, and on the side of a building in the Belmont neighborhood. That was really great, and I think shifted the notion of what can be done in Charlotte.
Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you?
JL: I attended an arts high school in New York City, so between that experience and an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art during my senior year, I knew I was going to be in the arts. Having grown up in NY museums and cultural centers, I was surprised to learn that so many people didn’t believe that they had access to these spaces. This belief was especially true for people who looked like me. It was then that I decided that my goal was change this by building spaces where people believe that culture belongs to everyone.
Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
JL: Honestly, balancing work and life is difficult; it’s become even more so during COVID-19. Lately, I’ve committed to a morning workout as a way to do something for myself while clearing my head in preparation for the day. I’ve am also attempting to do no work on one day during the weekend. I say trying – I’m not there yet.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
JL: One thing that I have learned – you have to ask questions. People often apologize for having questions. We need to change that practice.
I never enter a consulting situation without asking a lot of questions. If you are really invested in change, you have to approach each project as a collaboration. I work to understand an organizations culture, leadership style, individual perspectives, and intended goals as a first step in the process. If we are going to be successful, we need to begin the process with a real sense of understanding … questions allow that to happen.
Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments in your career?
JL: One of my most memorable moments was the first time an artist said that they had been following my work for a while and really wanted to work with me. That meant a lot because I respected them as a person and as a creative before we met. For me, it meant that I was doing this work the right way. It has happened a few times since then, and each time I am honored.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
JL: There are a lot of women who inspire me. Throughout my career, women have acted as my supporters, sounding boards, and connectors to new ideas and opportunities. When I reflect on each of these women, I am inspired by their commitment to mentoring, tenacity, intelligence, and true sense of character.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
JL: It’s an interesting time to be a woman. Recent articles document the disproportional affects that COVID is having on mothers who are lucky to be employed but have to choose between their careers and childcare. Women, who are 76% of our teachers in the US, have to make an insanely personal and stressful decision of entering the classroom or staying home for safety. Socially, Black women and women of color are navigating leading the fight for social justice and radical self-care. This is a tough moment.
Q: What is one word of advice you can offer to young women who want to reach your level of success?
JL: My advice is this – there are a lot of people in the world who will doubt what you want to do, and even create obstacles because of who you are, or who they think you to be. Be ready, be aware, and if you are doing what you really believe in, keep pushing. Connect with those that support you, and provide honest feedback, but ultimately trust yourself.
Five Things About Jonell Logan
1. What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
Prince. I also wouldn’t mind sitting down with Ava Duvernay.
2. What was the last book you read?
The Black Shoals by Tiffany Lethabo King. An artist that I’m working with is inspired by her writing, so I had to read it.
3. Which is your favorite, shopping online or in a store?
Right now – online. I, however, wouldn’t mind doing a lap in my favorite store. I miss window shopping.
4. What app can’t you live without?
Zoom. Can any of us live without it right now?
5. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
In this moment, sit at the beach with a day drink and a good book.