Remembering Clare Weiss: An Appreciation
Clare Weiss, Parks’ energetic Curator of Public Art from 2005 to 2009, died on January 11 after a long battle with breast cancer. She will be greatly missed by many at the Parks Department, but will long be remembered for her large creative legacy and the many artworks she brought to New York City’s public parks.
I first encountered Clare in February 2005, when she was an upbeat participant at the public art conference organized by the U.N. Sister Cities Program on the occasion of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Gates installation in Central Park. Clare showed keen interest and great enthusiasm for art in public spaces and its transformative power. Several weeks later she interviewed for the position of public art coordinator, and from nearly two hundred candidates was selected to fill the job.
Clare brought to the job extensive and diverse experience. She was born in Oxford, England in 1966, raised in the New York area, and earned a BA in Economics at Rutgers University, where she was a Phi Beta Kappa student. After college, Clare worked in the media industry—spending nearly a decade at ABC News, where she rose from television news desk assistant to broadcast editor and associate producer. Years later she fondly recalled the quick pace of the newsroom and the thrill of covering the tumult of a presidential nominating convention or the majesty of a space shuttle launch at sunrise. After leaving ABC, she held high ranking positions with several internet start-up companies focusing on health and fitness.
Her deep love of art propelled her in a new direction, and in 2003 Clare completed a master’s degree in modern art history, connoisseurship, and the art market at Christie’s Education. Her master’s thesis, Minimalism and the Ethereal Object, explored the work of light sculptor Dan Flavin. It was during this period that she founded Clare Weiss Presents, curating independent exhibitions of emerging artists in a rented loft space. This experience would serve her well as curator of Parks’ public art programming.
As Clare made the transition from media to the arts she also gained valuable experience at several Brooklyn-based contemporary art galleries, as well as the Brooklyn Museum, where she served as a research assistant on an exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work.
Arriving at Parks in 2005, Clare threw herself into her new role with creativity, tenacity and good humor. Over four years she helped organize 128 outdoor art exhibitions, as well as 36 exhibits at the Arsenal Gallery. She forged new partnerships throughout the city with groups and institutions as varied as Learning Expansion in the Arts Program (LEAP), the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Myrtle Avenue Development Corporation, and Jamaica Flux.
At the Arsenal Gallery she secured loans from leading contemporary artists, and curated several complex, thought-provoking and visually compelling thematic exhibitions that blended “cutting edge” aesthetics with the Parks Department’s mission, including Rare Specimen: The Natural History Museum Show, Garden Paradise, Players, and Into the Woods. Clare was amused, and proud, when Travis Roozee’s photo show of pigeon coops, Rooftop Brooklyn, garnered the “high-brow-brilliant” category of the New York Magazine’s notorious cultural “approval matrix.”
Two exhibits she curated in 2009 typified her dedication and curatorial élan. One was John Morton’s Sound Tunnel, an installation of auditory art beneath the 65th Street Transverse in Central Park, one of the few public art installations in the interior of Central Park in several decades. The other was Richie Lasansky’s Menagerie—a series of fanciful and bold large-scale drawings inspired by animals in New York City’s zoos that combined a contemporary spirit with classical draftsmanship. Installed by Clare and Richie in October 2009, the show embodied Clare’s keen aesthetic sense as well as her warm sense of humor.
Clare’s most ambitious undertaking was the citywide multi-site exhibition in 2007, which celebrated the 40th anniversary of temporary public art programming in the city’s parks. It was through Clare’s acumen and determination that 40 separate installations were on view simultaneously from Staten Island to the Bronx, an event that exceeded in scope any group exhibition that had preceded it.
Confronting illness with strength, grace, and dignity, Clare faced her mortality by embracing life and giving it meaning. We in Art & Antiquities feel blessed to have had Clare as a colleague and friend, and feel her loss dearly, as will the countless individuals with whom Clare worked.
We extend our condolences and our thanks for sharing Clare with us to her fiancé William Hampton-Sosa, mother Maggie Boepple and father Jonathan Weiss, stepfather Willard Boepple, brother Paul, and the rest of her extended family.
A memorial will be held on Saturday, February 13 at 2:00 p.m. at the Prospect Park Picnic House.
--Jonathan Kuhn, Director, Art & Antiquities
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
Sir Winston Churchill
(1874 - 1965)