Benedict (Ben) Heywood is the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Bellevue Arts Museum. Previously, he was Director of Pivot Art + Culture, a gallery and exhibition project of Seattle philanthropist Paul Allen. In Minneapolis, he was the founder of The Soap Factory, a studio, and a laboratory for artistic experimentation across the contemporary visual arts. A British citizen, Ben is a graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has previously been Deputy Director of The Henry Moore Sculpture Trust in Leeds, UK and a Visual Arts Officer at the Arts Council of England, London, UK.
As a graduate of the Courtauld Institute, one of the most prestigious schools for art history in the world, Ben’s specialism was medieval manuscript illumination, and this academic grounding gave him a deep appreciation for cross-disciplinary and collaborative work, especially within the illustration, decorative and fine arts field. As Deputy Director of The Henry Moore Sculpture Trust, he was the grant assessor for the Henry Moore Foundation (the estate of the modernist sculptor Henry Moore), jurying applications for arts support and making recommendations to the Foundation’s trustees. While a Visual Arts Officer at the Arts Council of England (the English equivalent of the NEA) he assessed and recommended over $60,000,000 of government support for national public art and urban design projects. As a curator with the Henry Moore Sculpture Trust and at his own non-profit art space in Minneapolis, The Soap Factory, he specialized in large-scale contemporary sculpture, video, and installation, particularly site-specific commissioned projects in historic architectural environments, while continuing to jury and produce grant assessments and recommendations for the McKnight Foundation, Alpert Foundation, Efroymson Foundation, Forecast Public Arts, Northern Lights, Northwestern College, University of Minnesota, Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, Creative Capital Foundation and Art In General.
Currently, at the Bellevue Arts Museum, he is curating temporary contemporary exhibition projects within a historic architectural environment, with a wide brief to produce publicly accessible exhibitions of art, craft, and design. In addition to jurying projects such as the Bellevue Arts Museum Glass Biennial (over 500 applicants from across the North West), he has also been the juror for three years of the Bellevue Arts Museum Arts Fair, the oldest and largest – 250,000 visitors – free art fair in the USA, which attracts 800 artists and makers every year.
Ben writes, “As a newcomer to the arts on Maui, I am excited to experience the breadth and depth of artistic practice on the island and am keen to have artists and makers in all genres and media to submit their work for the exhibition. There is a challenge to compare like-with-like for a group exhibition, while at the same time also ensuring a generous presentation of the diverse genres and media, however, I will want to make sure that what is finally selected and exhibited will be an accurate cross-section of Maui visual arts practice. A juried exhibition is very different from that of a traditional curated exhibition. As a museum curator, one might want to sort through varied artistic media and content to build a coherent theme or polemic for exhibition, in the juried exhibition context, the juror/curator must consider work across all media, genre, and subject, looking at the best of each, and discounting the potential opportunity where it might be more effective to show in-depth rather than in breath. A juried exhibition must demonstrate breadth: the challenge is to make effective choices to privilege a single example of an artist’s work that exemplifies the excellence of an artistic or geographic group as a whole.
Artwork is to be judged through a series of factors: the artists’ command of their chosen medium; the coherence of their vision for their work; and the accuracy of their subject, be that subject formal or conceptual. The key factor, however, always, in over 30 years of curating, jurying and selecting, is whether a work can bring something new to the particular argument – again formal or conceptual – with which the artist wishes the work to engage. All art has a function; and that function can be polemic, practical or simply a presentation of beauty or skill. All successful – a definition of ‘good’ – art must therefore in some way contain within itself the knowledge of its utility. Communicating that knowledge and self-sufficiency is the mark of a successful artist. Without clear conceptual confidence of an artwork’s utility – the purpose for which it was made – art is only just so much empty canvas, paint, ink, paper, metal, and clay.”