Candy Tate makes space for artists to shine

Art and psychology have been powerful forces in the life of Candy Tate, administrative assistant for the psychology department.

A 1987 art history graduate of Emory College, Tate joined the Carlos Museum staff soon after graduation as manager of operations. She worked with the museum for six years, earning a Master of Public Administration degree at Georgia State University through the Tuition Reimbursement program.

In 1993 Tate left Emory to pursue a master's in art history from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, specializing in African American art. Two years later she returned to Atlanta and joined the psychology staff last summer. She is now taking courses toward a PhD in art history at Emory.

Joining the psychology department was something of an ironic twist for Tate, whose father, a counseling psychologist at Georgia State for a number of years, died four years ago. In addition, Tate's sister is a senior psychology major at Emory.

Decking the walls
When Psychology Chair Marshall Duke interviewed Tate for her job last year, one of the duties he mentioned was coordinating the department's fledgling art exhibition program. Duke had been interested in the possibility of exhibiting the work of Emory community members and local artists in the Psychology Building. Duke subsequently met local artist and Emory PhD graduate Amalia Amaki at a Carlos Museum reception and asked her if she would be willing to display some of her artwork in the Psychology Building. Amaki agreed, and the first exhibition opened in March 1995.

"Dr. Duke knew that I was an art history major," Tate said. "During the job interview, he mentioned the exhibition project. I said that I would love to manage it and continue it, rotating the shows on a regular basis."

Most of the exhibitions Tate has organized have come to her in a fairly spontaneous way. "It's often just a matter of timing," she said. "Of course, it has to be an artist who has a body of work large enough to fill up the wall space on the main floor. We have three floors in the building, but we usually showcase the exhibitions on the main floor. I also look at technical merit. I won't put up just anybody's work. Most of the artists we have worked with so far have been from the Atlanta area."

Currently on display in the Psychology Building through Sept. 6 is the work of local artist La Trelle Du Bose, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design whose work includes oils, watercolors, pastels and graphite. Some of Du Bose's work explores the often controversial issue of race relations in America, particularly the South, while other pieces deal with more lighthearted themes such as animals and nature.

Last spring Tate arranged an exhibition of the photography of psychology graduate student Victor Balaban. The exhibition featured a number of urban Atlanta scenes as well as shots from the monthly pilgrimages of thousands of people to Conyers, Ga., where a local woman claims to receive monthly messages from the Virgin Mary.

Promoting Afrocentric art
In addition to her work with the Psychology Building program, Tate also runs her own business in which she acts as an agent for local artists, negotiating with representatives of display spaces to place her clients' work. Tate began her business about a year ago, opening a small exhibition space in the King Plow Arts Center near downtown Atlanta. She dubbed the venture The Queen Mother Gallery, a term from her art history studies that refers to "a very prominent figure in African society, in that she is responsible for passing on the genealogy and the legacy of where the person came from and their importance, and really instilling that into the younger kids," she explained.

In some parts of Africa, Tate said, the Queen Mother actually plays a political role. "It can be the king's mother," she said, "but often it's the most senior woman in the village or tribe. It's also a name from Egyptian lineage, so it definitely has African origins."

The use of the Queen Mother term reflects Tate's desire as an appreciator of art to help African American artists, especially women, find opportunities to share their work with a broader audience.

Since opening her business, Tate has moved out of King Plow Arts Center to cut down on overhead costs and now runs The Queen Mother Gallery out of her home. Rather than offering a physical display space for budding artists, Tate is now concentrating on the placement of those artists' work in local exhibition spaces.

Tate also plans to submit a proposal this fall for an internship program involving art history students from Emory and the Atlanta University Center schools for students interested in art or gallery work, "the commercial side of art." She envisions the program as a means of allowing African American art students to learn about the business of art in an environment that values Afrocentric art.

While teaching art history is one of Tate's long-term goals, for now she wants to fulfill her desire to educate by continuing to build her business and by bringing the work of high-quality artists to the Psychology Building. "The curator of an exhibition has a very scholarly take on the artwork," she said. "The artists may be ethereal in their concept and vision, but as the curator you have to speak to who is going to come in and buy it or look at it, and what's going to make sense to them."

--Dan Treadaway

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