Recent Carleton graduate Jasmine Inglis has a dream job as Curatorial Assistant of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada. Here she tells us how the MA program in Art History prepared her for work in the curatorial wing.

By Nicola Krantz

I first met Jasmine Inglis in the spring of 2016, when we were both hired as Visitor Services Associates at the National Gallery of Canada. She had just finished her MA in Art History at Carleton, the same program I was about to start that fall. Throughout the summer, Jasmine helped me prepare for graduate school. She gave me advice about which courses to take, told me of her own experiences, and talked to me about whether or not I should write a thesis. Since that summer, Jasmine has been promoted to Curatorial Assistant of Indigenous Art. Not only has she remained consistent with her advice, I am happy to count her as one of my closest friends. I asked her a few questions about her job and what she wishes she’d known when she was writing her thesis, “Yuxweluptun, Nicolson and Assu: Land, Environment and Activist Art in British Columbia,” which you can read here.

Jasmine’s thesis was based on interviews she conducted with three different artists. What she learned from the artists when interviewing them is what guided her research. She says that, for her, it was important not to overthink things or to over-plan the structure of her thesis before having done the research and interviewing her sources. “Follow your own path,” she advises. “Everyone has different strengths, it’s really important not to compare yourself to others.”

When I ask her about her thesis defence she says, “I thought I’d be grilled and questioned about everything. It was a pleasure to be able to talk about my research. I really enjoyed it in the end. It’s a really positive thing and a really nice way to end your research and your project. You get to reflect on the experience.”

Now that she is a curatorial assistant, I ask Jasmine if she ever imagined herself in this role. As a graduate student, was she working towards a curatorial job? “I never thought about the end, to be honest. I was really in it and I didn’t really think about the future. After grad school I got a little bit nervous. As women, we underestimate ourselves. I didn’t feel like I was qualified or deserved to have this job.”

After working as a Visitor Services Associate for almost a year, Jasmine was hired as a Curatorial Assistant to help plan the Indigenous Quinquennial (November 2019). She was responsible for putting together artist files, a list of advisors, and potential curators. Now, she is also in charge of the permanent collection. She writes justifications, “which is like writing a research paper,” price justifications, looks up comparable sales figures, and gives presentations. She also writes labels and catalogue entries. For instance, her entries were published in the catalogue for the 2017 Canadian Biennial.

For those who aspire to work as curators or curatorial assistants at national institutions, the following might be of interest to you. “Being a curator is very research-based, it’s a lot of writing – you have to produce catalogues. It’s not just putting artworks on walls and doing press-conferences. It’s a lot like grad school.” She emphasizes how similar her position is with grad school by stressing how much writing and research is required. “Also, don’t expect everyone to congratulate you, unlike grad school. Be prepared to receive less feedback.”

If you’re stressed about getting a job after graduation, Jasmine offers the following nugget of advice: “Keep striving to move forward.” She was always checking job postings and applying to new jobs. “It’s so important to maintain contacts. Networking, especially in the art world is so important – it can be difficult but…it actually opens a lot of doors.” She knows at least three graduate students from Art History at Carleton who did their practicums at the NGC and are now working as curatorial assistants, so “moving up in institutions is a very real thing.”

When she was at Carleton, Jasmine pursued the thesis stream. She did not take the curatorial concentration because the program doesn’t allow it if you want to write a thesis. While she admits that it would have been beneficial to learn some practical skills, like how an acquisition meeting is conducted, she comments that “for me, the thesis writing process was the most valuable thing I took from doing a Master’s. So many jobs, like a curatorial assistant, demand research, which is what I learned from my thesis. My job is very research based, and getting in touch with people.

I ask Jasmine what advice she’d give to a current graduate student. “Just enjoy your time in grad school. I look back on that time so happily.” She highly recommends going to conferences because “it’s such a great place to learn.” She advocates going to the art events in Ottawa, and especially going to the graduate events in order to be part of the community – the Carleton community. Partaking in all the opportunities is what leads to having a good graduate experience. “Enjoy it while you’re in it and take advantage of all the opportunities you get while being a student.”

Something else Jasmine said really reassured me: “Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get grants. People really took it to heart, but I really think it’s arbitrary. Don’t let that stuff get you down. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good scholar.”

Finally, her last words of wisdom are: “Don’t be too hard on yourself!”

Thanks Jasmine!