Critical Conversations- A Matter of Taste

Critical Conversations- A Matter of Taste

Critical Conversations is back with a panel featuring St. Louis artsfolk James McAnally, Jessica Baran, and Elizabeth Wolfson! These three brilliant humans, all critics/curators, will grapple with topics including the means by which we construct narratives and structures of taste, who signs off on them, and the validity of conventional arts hierarchies.  Further questions to be considered: What is the role of the critic and the curator? What about streams of funding for the intellectual infrastructure through which art is understood? Who holds metaphorical purse strings? Should the tastes of a few wealthy benefactors determine what is shown and what is collected? Is there a better way? How can we ensure a more rigorous and fruitful arts ecosystem? What works, and what needs to change? Our new format will be more conversational and less formal, but will continue to build on the conversations Critical Mass is having with artists both on and off the record.

Our thanks to James, Jessica, Liz, The Luminary, and our community.


Joe Kohlburn

Brett Williams

Sarah Hammond

This event took place June 14, 2018 at The Luminary .


James McAnally is a co-founder and caretaker of The Luminary and a co-founder and editor of Temporary Art Review, an international platform for contemporary art criticism that focuses on artist-run and alternative spaces. In his artistic practice, he works as a part of the collaborative US English and is a founding member of artist-owned cooperative Monaco. McAnally is a recent recipient of the Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing. His writing has appeared in Art Journal, Art in America, Terremoto, Hyperallergic, and Temporary Art Review and is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, among many others.

Jessica Baran is a poet, curator, critic and Associate Director of Curatorial and Program Development at Barrett Barrera Projects and projects+gallery. The author of three poetry collections, she is the former art writer for the Riverfront Times (2008-2012), Assistant Director of White Flag Projects (2008-2011), and Director of fort gondo compound for the arts (2012-2016). She also lectures intermittently at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art and St. Louis University’s Prison Arts & Education program. She holds a B.A. in visual art from Columbia University, NY and an MFA in poetry from Washington University in St. Louis – where she lives with poet Nathaniel Farrell and their dog Benny.

Elizabeth Wolfson is a writer, curator,  and co-director of Flood Plain, a  non-profit artists-run art space in the Gravois Park neighborhood aimed at providing an arena for artists to pursue experimental projects. Wolfson has worked in various non-profits including White Flag Projects, and SLAM. Her writing has appeared in such publications as St. Louis Magazine, and Art 21. Presently, Wolfson is completing her PhD in American Studies, and working with her co-directors to curate, organize, and promote art both locally and regionally.

If you have a question, please tweet us @criticalmassSTL . It is through engagement with our community that we continue to move to promote revolution in the systems and practices of the arts ecosystem. For more information check out