Congratulations to FRONT's Curatorial Assistant, Lo Smith!

Jun. 18, 2020

A warm congratulations are in order for FRONT International's Curatorial Assistant, Lo Smith, on their accomplishments and recognition as one of Crain's Cleveland Business 2020 "Twenty in their 20s!"

"Introducing Crain’s 2020 Twenty in their 20s.

Here you’ll find the typical roll call of accomplishments beyond their years, impressive feats of leadership, advocates, healers and entrepreneurs. You’ll find something more, too: an inspirational cohort of young people responding with grit and grace to the coronavirus pandemic. The community engagement manager who found ways to stay in touch with residents despite the cancellation of big neighborhood events. The chief marketing officer who pivoted his rebranding launch to digital-only when the big annual trade show didn't happen. The nonprofit manager who in a matter of days turned a major fundraiser virtual and brought in more money for her organization than the previous year's in-person event. Their lives, their businesses and their worlds are upside-down, but they’re doing what they can to keep going and give back.

To maintain safe social distancing, we decided not to send a photographer out for portraits and asked this year’s honorees to submit selfies instead. We think they really captured this moment, and look great, too."

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"Being a curatorial assistant, according to Lo Smith, can be like being an investigative journalist. Curatorial assistants scour scholarly texts and news articles, interview artists and archivists and even research and locate historical artifacts to uncover the most engaging and impactful way to tell the story of artwork or artists.

Smith vividly recalls, for example, tiptoeing through Cleveland’s Woodland Cemetery one spooky day last October in search of Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson’s headstone. Johnson, the last person prosecuted under the Fugitive Slave Act, “was buried right here in Cleveland, which is something I did not know,” Smith said.

Getting to see their hometown in a new light has been one of the biggest blessings of Smith’s relatively new engagement at Front Exhibition Co., the organizer of Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. Front leaders recruited the Brown University graduate back to Cleveland from Providence, R.I., in 2019 to join the artistic team for its second edition, planned for summer 2022.

“Part of my job is also to develop the project’s artists and that is what really hooked me : the opportunity to help make other people’s art happen,” said Smith, a printmaker who prioritizes message over medium.

“I do a lot of community-based collaborative work so that means zines, books (and) workshops. I also do video work and sound work. It’s about looking at what we are trying to achieve and then doing that by any means possible.”

At Front, Smith works daily with a far-flung team of curators and artists under the direction of artistic directors Tina Kukielski in New York and Prem Krishnamurthy in Berlin, according to nominator and Front Exhibition CEO Fred Bidwell.

They also maintain an active public schedule of exhibitions — including a recent showing at the Cleveland Institute of Art — panels and programming, both independently and as an ambassador for the Transformer Station- based international art collaborative.

“Lo is a powerful representative and advocate for new voices in the art world locally and internationally that challenge traditional institutions and narratives in ways that bring new conversations and innovations to life through contemporary art,” said Bidwell. — Judy Stringer

FRONT 2022 Curatorial Assistant, Lo Smith.