Published on 09 October 2019

Meet Steph Cibich, Curator

Five years ago, Steph Cibich – a Pilates instructor and university nutrition graduate – felt something was missing from her life.

She loved her work and her studies, but felt her interests in music, theatre, dance, visual arts and writing had taken a back-seat in her quest to get a “real job”.

It was during a visit to the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) to clear her head, that Steph realised the new path she had to take.

“I asked an AGSA volunteer about careers paths,” Steph, of Semaphore Park, explains.

“I’m someone that has to feel completely invested in what I do, so I decided to bite the bullet and get back into the arts.”

In 2015 she enrolled in a Postgraduate Diploma of Art History at the University of Adelaide, and what followed was a flurry of exciting roles, volunteering opportunities, internships, awards and a Master of Arts (Curatorial & Museum Studies).

Her latest honour was winning the inaugural City of Onkaparinga Contemporary Curator Award, presented in August as a partnership between Onkaparinga Arts/Sauerbier House and SALA (South Australian Living Artists) Festival.

The award sees Steph receive a $1,000 prize, a curatorial fee and in-kind support to curate a [GRAFTd] exhibition at Sauerbier House during SALA 2020, which runs alongside the innovative art space’s artist-in-residence program.

“I honestly couldn’t believe it [and] I’m so proud and grateful to have been selected,” Steph says of the award, which was open to curators of 2019 SALA exhibitions.

“I thought the other finalists had presented amazing exhibitions and I was so impressed with everything I saw throughout SALA this year.

“I can’t wait to get stuck into preparing the exhibition. As someone who grew up by the coast, I feel at home within the City of Onkaparinga. The region includes some of this country’s most beautiful beaches and some of my favourite wine!

“I’m really impressed by the breadth Onkaparinga’s art program. The art scene is eclectic and unique in its offerings, and I’m thrilled to see thriving support for the arts in the community.

“Sauerbier House represents a strong connection to this community by actively encouraging creative expression and opportunities for contemporary artists and arts professionals.

“I cannot express how excited I am to be a part of this creative cultural exchange.”

Steph can’t yet reveal too much about what she’s got planned for the five-week exhibition, to be held in August and September 2020.

What we do know is that Steph will use the opportunity to hone her curatorial skills and develop a unique SALA experience to be presented within the Sauerbier House galleries.

As usual, interaction with residents, locals and visitors will also be crucial. During SALA 2020 there’ll be opportunities for the community to extend its understanding of Steph’s curatorship at the exhibition launch, in conversation with Sauerbier House Coordinator Jaynie Langford or through a curator floor talk or workshop, for examples.

The public can visit Sauerbier House from Wednesday to Saturday and meet artists from the residency program at work in their open-studios, not only in conjunction with Steph’s SALA exhibition, but at any time of the year.

Steph says her role as curator is about facilitating, collaborating with and encouraging artists to help shared projects thrive, as well as mediating connections between artists, the work and the viewer in new and interesting ways.

There’s also an administrative side to curatorship, which includes research; concept development; applying for grants; writing essays, labels and social media posts; and physically installing the exhibition.

Whichever way Steph’s exhibition takes shape, it’s clear she’s found the path she was looking for, and her passion for curatorship will enrich Onkaparinga’s arts scene come SALA 2020.

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Steph receiving her award from City of Onkaparinga Team Leader, Arts and Events, Jason Haskett. Photo: SALA/Jack Fenby