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Curating for Target Audiences


The Clarice: NextNOW Fest 2021

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, first-year and sophomore students at universities everywhere lacked a college experience coming into the 2021-2022 school year. With NextNOW Fest taking place at the end of the third week of the academic year, the curatorial planning team knew that our festival had the potential to forge connections and create lasting relationships for all attendees, but especially the first-year and sophomore students. As a result, we approached the festival programming with specific attention to first-year and sophomore students.

While generating ideas for festival programming, I explored community artmaking and discovered artist Candy Chang’s Neighbor Doorknob Hanger. I adapted the Neighbor Doorknob Hanger for the circumstances of UMD students with the artist’s permission. Candy’s Neighbor Doorknob Hanger was created with the intent of apartment residents indicating that they would be willing to share household items (such as a vacuum) and that they have a need for some household items and would appreciate borrowing from a neighbor. Knowing that first-year and sophomore students would be enthusiastic about opportunities to make new friends, I adapted Candy’s design to create space for students to write activities and pastimes they like. I designed the hanger for student residents to hang on the front door of their dorm room so that floormates could walk by, see the activities that fellow residents like, and knock on doors where residents have indicated similar favorites. After all, it is easier to make friends when we know we have something in common. I adapted Candy Chang’s artwork for UMD students to serve younger students who may be still looking for a solid group of friends in college, and many students were enticed by the hanger when they saw it at the marketing table at festival events throughout the week.

Through my creation of the neighbor doorknob hanger, I realized that creating certain programming for an intended audience as a subgroup of a larger audience is not always a bad thing. At first, working to create programming for target audiences made me worried that we would be excluding others and gatekeeping our programming. However, creating the hanger helped me to learn that creating arts events or activities for smaller target audiences can be rewarding when it is done with good intentions. In no festival event or activity did we actually limit who could enter or participate, as the festival was free and open to UMD students and the public. Programming such as the hanger was created with a particular audience in mind, but was not kept away from the people outside of that particular audience. Creating the Neighbor Doorknob Hanger with the first-year and sophomore students in mind helped me to better understand the value of audience-targeted programming.



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