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Crawford Profiles: Emma Klemencic

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Name: Emma Klemencic

Where are you from?
I am a pure blow-in! When people ask me where I am from, I never feel quite sure. I was born in London. My second name comes from my Slovenian Dad.  People find it hard to place me, which I have grown to quite enjoy. 

What do you do at Crawford Art Gallery?
I lead the Learn & Explore programme at Crawford Art Gallery together with a senior curator named Anne Boddaert. Basically, this is the gallery’s education and access programme which we deliver collaboratively with artists, community groups and partnership organisations.

Briefly describe your typical working day.
The Learn & Explore programme is diverse; it really needs to be, because our audiences are wonderfully diverse!

As it is for most people working in the arts, a typical day is often a juggling act. You may find me making tea for a dementia-friendly art group, shepherding excited children on school tours, frantically sharpening pencils, designing learning resources or meeting with artists. I genuinely get a real kick out of creating points of connection for all kinds of people to access the gallery. This makes my work feel worthwhile and for me, it's the gold. I am lucky to work with Anne, a very experienced curator (also a blow-in!) who shares these values, as well as Alice O’Donoghue, a programme assistant who is terribly bright and adept at juggling! The exhibitions and programmes that the Crawford Art Gallery presents are very much a collaborative effort. This makes my job more challenging, but (most days!) it feels worth it, on a personal level.

Right now, I am really lucky to be able to work remotely, with a teenage daughter who tolerates me. It is a strange and tough time, and there is a sense of loss. My focus is on listening and responding as best I can. I hope to support programmes that are genuinely useful and responsive to artists and local communities. 

Some of the programmes that I am working on currently include Crawford Supported Studio, a programme that advocates for sixteen Cork-based artists living with disabilities. The studio aims to share the quality and range of artwork being produced and to create meaningful encounters beyond healthcare settings. You can read our article on the Crawford Supported Studio, just published in the Irish Museums Association’s journal Museums Ireland here. Our weekly Talking Pictures series is currently designed by a fantastic young Cork illustrator called Annie Forrester. It is an online resource for children and their adults based on artworks from the Crawford Art Gallery collection.

We share creative prompts for happy talking, playing, making and moving every Wednesday.  There are also multiple, quieter projects going on in the background, such as our facilitation of online art workshops with children who are living in Direct Provision, delivered with the support of the wonderful Fionnuala O’Connell, a youth worker with the Cork Migrant Project. 

Do you remember the first time you visited the gallery?
The first time I visited the gallery was as an incredibly awkward teenager. I remember navigating a loose circuit around Cork city, getting off the bus, spending a long time perusing the indie shops. Some of you may remember Riddled with Gorgeousness, DV8 or Red Square, with a possible encounter with friendly Hari Krishnas and scrambled eggs and tea for £2.50 in Bewley’s thrown in for good measure. I remember the feeling of pressing my face up to the glass, wandering and wanting to find a way into art, but not being sure of how to go about it. Now that I have a teenage daughter myself, I appreciate the freedom I had to explore, and I hope that young people will have more room to stretch and make lots of mistakes soon.  

Having been that teenage weirdo, I recognise that the whiff of hushed gentility that can come with the gallery or institutional space can be challenging: that feeling that you don’t speak in the right way or have the right learning to get through the doors. As an adult, I can hold the tension between respect for artists and the need to care for our national collection, while opening the door to diverse audiences. Without sounding too worthy, I honestly believe that everyone has the right to access creativity, connection and meaning within the cultural life of their community. 

Do you have a favourite artwork, exhibition or gallery space?
I really enjoyed working on the engagement programme for the exhibition Naked Truth: The Nude in Irish Art , because I think that we succeeded in creating the ‘gold' in a series of free events with entry points for lots of cultural types, from artists to people who were just plain curious. I also had the opportunity to do some cool things like arrange an alternative gallery tour with Tara Flynn. The exhibition Seen, Not Heard was also an important exhibition, that experimented with play and a certain amount of risk in the gallery by incorporating an interactive Playspace. The engagement programme that accompanied this exhibition involved a lot of areas close to my heart; the gallery as a public, civic and social space. My standout moments are community projects with the Cork Traveller Women’s Network, made up of women who are natural teachers. I can’t forget the indomitable women of the Ballyphehane/ Togher Arts & Crafts Initiative, who are the real deal. They were incredibly patient with me and taught me how to work better with communities. They are an example of the wisdom, creativity and humour that is already there within our local communities. We just need to listen.

What do you think people might be surprised to learn about the gallery?
I think that people might be surprised by the amount of heart, risk and drive – the not knowing and getting things wrong – that art workers, artists, curators and all the people behind the curtain at the art gallery, and certainly in the arts in general, have. I have certainly learned to love the gallery: after twelve years of working here, it is as familiar to me now as an old shoe. You can check out our free Learn and Explore programmes and resources here. We welcome feedback and enquiries and will do our best to respond.

Emmett Place, Cork, Ireland
T12 TNE6
Tel: 021 480 5042

Opening Hours
N.B. Last entry is 15 minutes before closing

Monday–Saturday 10.00am–5.00pm*
Thursday until 8.00pm

Sundays and Bank Holidays
11.00 am4.00pm

*Second floor closes 15 minutes before closing
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