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Ruba Katrib Fills MOCA With Sharp, Edgy Art

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In honor of our People Issue, which will hit newsstands and computer screens November 24, Cultist presents "Miami Backstage," where we feature the city's behind-the-scenes culture makers. Have suggestions for future profiles? Email cultist@miaminewtimes.com with the whos and whys.

Ruba Katrib

Many art world observers believe it takes a great curator to recognize a kindred talent. That's why it's safe to say North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art's executive director and chief curator, Bonnie Clearwater saw a little of herself in Ruba Katrib when she hired her as MOCA's associate curator.

Since joining the museum, the crackerjack curator has been responsible for bringing some of the sharpest and edgier shows to South Florida that rival what top-flight cultural institutions are doling out anywhere.

"I hired Ruba out of all the exceptional applicants because she demonstrated a keen understanding of new art also had an international network, and at the same time I knew she would become an important part of the Miami community. She is smart, focused and confident, plus we have a great time working together," Clearwater told New Times last year.

Katrib, a West Virginia native snagged a bachelor's degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Visual and Critical Studies and her master's degree from Bard College's vaunted Center for Curatorial Studies.

In 2002, she founded ThreeWalls, a non-profit arts residency and exhibition space in the Windy City. Before arriving in town a few years ago, Katrib had previously worked with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago.

At MOCA, in early 2010, she drew international attention with the first U.S. museum survey of the work of Cory Arcangel, not to mention introducing Claire Fontaine to local audiences in the Paris-based collective's first comprehensive U.S. exhibit. She recently organized Ryan Trecartin's "Any Ever" and the museum's current group show "Modify, as Needed."

To say Katrib's star is rising is an understatement. The dynamo is leaving large footprints on our cultural landscape one show at a time and, as an adjunct professor at the New World School of the Arts, inspiring the vision of an entire cadre of rising talent.

1. List five things that inspire you.
--Animals, especially my cats
--I am always captivated by good film
--I read a lot, everything from literature to history to art-related subjects
--My friends are a great source of encouragement. I have great friends around the world and they are always providing new and different motivations and insights.

2. What was your last big project?

I just opened a group exhibition at MOCA called "Modify, As Needed". There are 11 artists in the exhibition and we produced most of the artwork. It was a really exciting process to work so closely with this group of incredible artists to conceive of new projects and see them to fruition. There was a lot of experimentation by a number of artists in the show, who used the exhibition to try out different directions in their work that they previously didn't have the opportunity to, and I believe they were really successful.

3. What's your next big project?
I am working on a publication that documents the New Methods symposium I organized at MOCA this past May, which brought together eight contemporary arts organizations providing education for working artists in different cities in Latin America. I am going through the footage of the three-days of panels to comprise select transcripts and I am still in contact with the eight organizations that participated to continue the dialogue. I am really looking forward to this publication because I think it's so important to follow these kinds of events through and I think the results will be even more fruitful and accessible when presented in a book format. 

4. Why do you do what you do?
I love working with artists to realize their works in an exhibition-related context. You have to translate what the artist is doing and thinking and present it to the public. This is a great responsibility, one I don't take lightly. Also, I think being a curator is such a multi-faceted role. It's scholarly, it's social, it's introspective, it's interdisciplinary, and it's active. I never get bored.

5. What's something you want Miami to know about you?
I would like Miami to know that I appreciate the city. I think it takes a lot of time to feel at home here when you arrive from another place, but I'm really starting to understand it, and I have a great fondness for the city. Many of the things that used to drive me crazy about Miami now provoke a sense of pride. 

What's something you don't want Miami to know about you?
This is something Miami may find out about me eventually, so I might as well air it out here, I am obsessed with reality TV, the trashier the better.

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