It was a "blessing in disguise," Sarah Green says of her exit last week from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where she'd worked as a curator of contemporary art since 2007. "If I hadn't felt compelled to leave there, I wouldn't be in the place I am right now."
And it's a place she's "truly, genuinely" thrilled to be in. Sarah is partnering with her husband, the YA author and expert vlogger John Green, to launch The Art Assignment, a weekly show for PBS Digital Studios. Sarah Green, the project's creator, will host; John Green is on board as an executive producer and will often serve as an on-camera everyman without Sarah's knowledge of art history.
The show, which begins shooting next month, will debut in January 2014 via PBS Digital Studios' YouTube channel. PBS has the option of picking it up for broadcast on one of its traditional, terrestrial channels.
Each 8-10 minute episode of The Art Assignment will profile a working artist, who will then in turn issue an "art assignment" to viewers.
For Sarah, it's a way of tapping into the Internet's DIY culture, where people are being creative even if they aren't aware that what they're creating could very well be labeled as art.
"Silly memes like planking aren't too dissimilar from early conceptual art ideas, where an artwork consisted of the documentation of instructions given to an artist," Sarah says. "I think there are a lot of people who are or would be or will be interested in contemporary art if they realize how broad the field is now. People get stymied in this idea of what art can or should be. But it's a multi-disciplinary phenomenon now."
While each artist will ultimately determine the assignment he or she gives to viewers, Sarah will play a role in shaping the series' syllabus, so that, by end of the season, viewers will have the opportunity to work on a variety of assignments, from video to sound pieces, and not just drawings, paintings and photos.
Through it all, she aims to present contemporary art as a "highly accessible" entity. "The show won't be so much about the artist-as-genius, but more about showing what the creative process really looks like," she says. "We want to show people that they shouldn't be afraid of creating an assignment."
Sarah still thinks of herself as a curator in her new role, which will find her meeting with a variety of artists and making studio visits. Her work at the IMA included Andy Warhol Industries, which considered Warhol as a businessperson (and was, appropriately enough, sponsored by PNC Bank); and Graphite, which explored recent, innovative use of the titular material. She also led the charge in bringing the first, full-scale North American retrospective of work by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei to the museum this spring.
The Greens are working with an largely Indianapolis-based crew on the series, including members of the production team behind John and Hank Green's fast-paced, educational series Crash Course. Sarah is taking cues from that series in terms of pacing and editing: "The brilliance of Crash Course has been its ability to present information quickly - and also with a good amount of nuance." She plans for each show to include a one-minute animated segment illustrating the art historical background for any given art assignment.
The Art Assignment has a one-year contract with PBS, though more seasons may follow. "There are so many artists in mind that I want to work with, and I won't be able to work with them all within a year," Sarah says.