Curator Renny Pritikin speaks on career opportunities in the art world

Kaitlin Bruce

Sacramento State invited Renny Pritikin, director of the Nelson Gallery and handler of the fine arts collection at UC Davis to lecture Thursday, where he spoke to students about his work and what they can do with an education in the arts.

This is the first of a series of lectures which will be happening through December entitled, “The Profession of Art: A lecture series.”

“I have never been asked to talk about myself,” Pritikin said. “It kind of threw me for a loop. It’s a great privilege.”

Pritikin graduated from California State University, San Francisco with a master’s degree in interdisciplinary art and a Bachelor’s degree from the New School for Social Research, New York.

He has worked all over the world with highly acclaimed artists such as Fred Tomaselli, Tim Hawkinson, Dave Lane, Kenji Yanobe, Syd Mead, Don Ed Hardy and George Lucas.

Pritikin has been a curator of countless shows, worked for the Yerba Buena Center SF as chief curator for artistic programs and education, director of New Langston Arts in San Francisco, taught at California College of the Arts, is a published writer and has worked with many art centers.

The artist, poet and curator started his lecture with those who influenced him the most in life: His parents, and artists the late Ogden Nash and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, as well as Ricky Ray.

All of those artists in his eyes fought the mainstream and were American originals.

According to Pritikin, these were modern men, ahead of their time creating a new type of counter culture through their work.

Pritikin said he is attracted to art that he described as “underclass visual culture as worthy of a museum,” supporting artists that use illegal drugs in paintings, create life-size “survival machines” and outlandish self portraits.

He is also an advocate for contemporary art with a twist.

“I was giving a poetry reading in San Francisco, I was about 25 and it was one of those transcendental moments in your life,” Pritikin said. “I had the audience in the palm of my hand, and I realized, ‘I’m wasting my time being a school teacher – make a change.'”

At this point he went forward with his skills and delved deeper into the art scene to leave his own imprint.

“I always tell young artists that I have had the greatest life,” Pritikin said. “You’re not going to get rich working in a museum, but you’re going to have more fun than anybody. I’ve been everywhere. It’s amazing.”

Darrin Stoddard, a senior photography major said the lecture gave him hope for the future of his career,

“It’s nice to know that there are other field work options,” Stoddard said. “Often times those options aren’t visible to students.”

Before settling in the area, Pritikin was unfamiliar with Sacramento’s art culture.

“I have to admit I arrived here completely naive about the art scene in Sacramento, so I had to really educate myself,” Pritikin said. “It’s been a thrill to find this community with many, many smart and dedicated artists. The Nelson (UC Davis’s art gallary) is both a teaching museum for the art and grad students, but we also hope it’s a resource for the region.”

Jeremy Jordan, a second year graduate student with a master’s degree in studio art was inspired by Pritikin’s speech.

“It really gives hope to people and the chance to actually do something,” Jordan said.

The series will take place every Thursday evening from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. in Kadema Hall, Room 145. The next guest speakers will be Shelly Willis, director of the City and County of Sacramento’s Art in Public Places Program: James Housefield, a professor in the Design Department, UC Davis; and Stacey Shelnut-Hendrick, director of dducation, Crocker Art museum.