Cari Ann of The Museum of Wild and Newfangled Art (mowna) on Art in the Age of COVID and More

I enjoyed such a challenging, fun and so inspiring conversation with Cari Ann, one of the two creators/curators of The Museum of Wild and Newfangled Art or mowna (her partner in the museum is Joey Zaza). Teaching dance and technology as a full-time professor at NYU’s Tish School, immersed in the intersection of these two areas, Cari Ann has taken her interests further into developing an elegant online space to present art of all types. And she is ever so passionate about it.

Read on about the mowna, Cari Ann’s mission and even how you can submit to the museum’s biannual that hits in April.

The creation of a digital gallery seems to be a direct symptom of our times. But you told me that you had the idea for the museum pre-COVID, right?

Yes, it was in our minds before COVID hit. We’ve discussed creating this for about three years, about the fact that the art market business is failing, museums are failing, and artists are finding it impossible to survive making money. We’ve wanted to address this problem and find a way to make something like this sustainable, then the pandemic hit and things became very clear and urgent.


Well, it has resulted in some positives here and there. For instance, because of COVID, my class sizes have reduced. It’s been amazing in that I can get more done, I have more time with students, so that’s something positive that’s come out of it.

Being the old curmudgeon that I am, I often find that there is much more wrong with digital than good. How do you guys reconcile the various pitfalls inherent in being a digital-only space?

Well, we also do have big problems with social media, big tech, and all of those negatives; I don’t even have social media myself. In fact, I just got approved to teach a course next year on the ethics of tech. I’m very excited about this, as technology has never been regulated, where we have to get a license to drive a car, the FDA has strict guidelines in the food we eat, but technology, something we are all immersed in daily, is out of control. So, I certainly understand what you are saying.

We’re trying to create an elegant space that harkens back to the birth of the net. We don’t have any pop-ups, we don’t collect data, we offer a clean space to see art and to have a relaxing experience. The museum does not have social media, and by its existence, we hope we are sending the message to not spend so much time on Facebook, in effect saying ‘Come over here and feel good.’

In reviewing for shortandsweetNYC, I’m sent invites and stuff all the time. But this past year, it’s been challenging to view some things digitally; a good percentage of what’s been offered I don’t feel translates so well digitally, in fact. Do you believe that the digital experience diminishes some forms of art?

I think that there’s art that wasn’t made for digital, but we’re asking artists how their work can translate to a digital space and maybe drive work in a new direction. Modifying work for a different space is one of the places where our interest lies.

I think art is living in the digital space more than we acknowledge. In the spaces of our phones, everyone seems to want to translate things digitally; for instance, on Instagram posts. We are asking, ‘Ok, is there a way we can go further to really make art live and breathe?’

Well, certainly not every museum or gallery is set up to present something digitally or trying badly to doing so.

I think many are not budgeted for it as much as many just didn’t know what to do when COVID hit. We are providing a space to support artists in this time, and for those places that don’t or can’t do a good job of doing so, we are looking to take that job on.

How do you determine what goes in and what doesn’t? How do you reconcile an interesting piece with what might not speak to or even oppose the ethos of the museum?

I’m glad you asked this. It’s interesting in that we haven’t gotten any submissions yet that brought us to the place where we had to consider that question; nothing’s come in yet, and I thought something would. But showing work that’s compelling in a space where one can talk about these things is good. Certainly, we consider each piece on its own merit, but the bigger question always has to be, is this something that is actually doing the thing or talking about the thing, that’s where I feel the line needs to be drawn.

But we are very interested in having conversations and having them all the time. It’s healthy to come to a place where we can agree to disagree while we just talk to each other. It would be nice if we can really get back to that.

God, I so agree with you on that!

Again, I urge you to submit to the museums bi-annual (the deadline has now been extended to March 16th), Cari Ann couldn’t have been more welcoming for everybody to do so. I really do want to wish Cari Ann and all the good people over at mowna the very best. It seems they are really trying to add something positive to all of our lives, especially in a time we need it most.

Here’s where to submit for the mowna’s call for Submissions for the 2021 Online Biennial: www.mowna.org/submit/2021-biennial and fill out the online form.

Here’s where to visit the: www.mowna.org

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