Corey Carrington realized he wanted to be an artist in the 10th grade. Becoming a curator took a little longer.
Students had been tasked to write a poem about how they are perceived by others. Carrington’s English teacher submitted his piece, “Outside the Box,” to Carnegie Mellon University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Awards for local high school and college students. Carrington was asked to read it for an audience on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“That was really the moment where I was like, ‘Maybe you should this explore a little bit more,’” he says.
Fast-forward a few years, and, after earning a communication and creative-writing degree from Slippery Rock University, Carrington was creating poems and visual art while working odd jobs including dishwasher for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, admissions clerk at CCAC, and program assistant at Partner4Work. Carrington stumbled upon the Emerging Black Arts Leader Apprenticeship (EBALA), created by Contemporary Craft in 2016 after an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation survey found that only 4 percent of museum curators, conservators and educators identify as African American. EBALA is funded by the Pittsburgh-based Opportunity Fund.
“It became increasingly concerning to me that as a nonprofit arts organization that is interested in building community and sharing cross-cultural perspectives, … we try to find more diverse staff members and also support their entry into the field,“ said Janet McCall, Contemporary Craft executive director.
Carrington, who performs as “Grits Capone,” spent a year learning arts-administration skills, like developing educational programs and assisting with exhibit installation and de-installation. Now he’s curating his first art exhibit. Electric Kool-Aid, opening Oct. 5 at the Brew House Association, is an Associated Artists of Pittsburgh group show focusing on surrealist themes.
“Some of the pieces are more conceptual, and that stuff kind of speaks to me because it allows your mind to wander and really get into your imagination,” he says.
Carrington plans to curate more shows, develop his portfolio to apply for a master’s-of-fine-arts program, and learn African drumming and storytelling, thanks to a grant from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
“I’ve earned the right to be selective about what I do,” he says. “I determine my own destiny.”