We had the good fortune of connecting with Melanie Johanson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melanie, we’d love to start by asking you about lessons learned. Is there a lesson you can share with us?
My curatorial career has taught me to go see art, as much as you can, everywhere. If there’s a show you want to see, go see it! Don’t wait for the time to be convenient. I’ll drive hours to see artwork that I want to see in person. The pandemic has made it even more clear that seeing art in person is a valuable part of the human experience. When museums opened again, I went as soon as I could! I also always document the artist names so that I can keep a record for future exhibitions. If an artwork inspires me, I make sure to remember it, and hopefully can bring that artist to the Cornell Art Museum in Delray Beach!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think what sets the Cornell Art Museum apart is the fact that we show contemporary art in a historic building in the heart of Delray Beach. The museum has a charm about it that won’t be found in bigger museums, but the artwork that we exhibit is still of very high caliber. It makes for a different experience – high end artwork hanging in a setting of old school charm! I started at the Museum in 2012 as an assistant to the previous Director. She retired, and that’s when I curated my first exhibition in 2014. I made the decision to show contemporary art, and the museum’s mission evolved with the exhibitions, and now we are committed to bringing world class contemporary art to Delray Beach. I’ve learned so much from my curatorial career, but I think mainly that you truly can do more than you think. Let yourself believe in you. I know that sounds kind of cliche, but it really is true. I had never curated anything more than a tiny art show, but I knew I could do it. I used my background in design and art history to figure out a good theme, and then went from there. I’ve learned that staying in touch with people and having meaningful relationships with artists is not only an adventure, but great for opening up the door to more incredible artwork. I’ve met the best people and have had some of the most interesting experiences because of this job! Some of my great friends came from first loving their artwork.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There’s so much in Delray Beach! Obviously we have the gorgeous public beach, and a beach day is one of my favorite things. The town of Delray is so charming, I would walk the Avenue, go to the Cornell Art Museum, check out the Arts Warehouse studios and galleries. I would absolutely drive to Miami to go to the Bass Museum – this has always been one of my favorites! As far as food goes, my recommendations include Dada in Delray Beach, Benny’s on the Beach in Lake Worth, and I have always loved getting coffee and a breakfast wrap at the Seagate Hotel’s ETC Cafe! One of my favorite stores in Delray Beach is the flower shop “From Roehm with Love.”
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Margaret Blume! She believed in my vision at the Cornell Art Museum and made a generous donation to renovate the interior of our beloved historic building. She does so much good in the community and she changed my life!
Other: IG @melaniejohanson
Julia Rose Photography