Many years ago, I started seeing a boy I thought I liked, but there was a problem. It was baseball season. This was in Boston in the late eighties, and the boy was a devoted Red Sox fan. Whenever I went over to his place, the TV was on, and he and his friends were staring into the screen with the passionate intensity of early man contemplating fire. Intent as they were on the game, none of them said much, and I would quickly get bored. If the Sox were on, the only way to get the boy I thought I liked to talk to me was to ask questions: Why is that one guy wearing a mask? What is the infield fly rule? Why was he out? There was a lot to learn, and it turned out that I enjoyed learning it. By the time fall rolled around, even alone in my own apartment I found myself tuning into the game.
In 2009, when I started working at ICA, I knew almost as little about contemporary art as I’d known about baseball back in the eighties. There was a lot of talk around the office that winter about how the museum needed a blog, but everyone was so busy that it was hard to see who could write it. I wasn’t as busy as a lot of people—and I was a writer—but I knew it couldn’t be me. My lack of knowledge about that world was just too big.
Then one day in March, one of the curators announced that it was gardening day. She brought in some plants, and some shovels, and for the better part of an afternoon we labored in the sun, digging out towering weeds and putting flowers in. It was fun doing something so unexpected at work, and as I carried heavy buckets of water out to the terrace I found myself thinking about the ways this little project—terrace gardening—revealed things about curating and the people who did it. It occurred to me that people who came to ICA might like to read about that.
Then I thought, maybe people would be interested in reading about other things that happened behind the scenes too: upstairs in the offices, or down in the galleries during installation, or in the kitchen when we cooked dinner for a special guest. I was pretty sure I could write about those things. I could ask questions: Why can’t you open an art crates right when it gets here? What do artists do when they come for an installation? What happens when you go to someone’s house to borrow a piece of art?
The fact that there were so many things I didn’t know didn’t seem like a problem anymore: it revealed itself as an opportunity. If I was curious about something, other people would probably be curious too. I could help open up the world of ICA the way, week by week, it was opening up for me. So I wrote a short piece about the terrace gardening, and also a couple of other pieces. I showed them to my boss, and my boss showed them to the director. And they said, yes, go ahead.
For the past four years my ICA colleagues, many artists whose work we have exhibited, and a wide variety of guests and collaborators have let me hang around, eavesdrop, ask questions, take pictures. They have answered my questions, reviewed drafts, made suggestions, corrected errors, invited me on interesting errands, and indulged my flights of whimsy. Along the way I have learned a great deal and had tremendous fun. I hope you have, too.
I’m leaving the ICA team to focus on writing fiction, but the museum will continue to have a blog—maybe even a blog called Miranda—though with a new voice and a new look, just as the look of a baseball team changes every season. In the meantime, we are putting our bats away, resting our pitching arms, and letting the grass on the diamond grow. (I’m sticking with this baseball metaphor because I know from my own experience how the shared love of something, whether baseball or contemporary art, can lead to a serious relationship, even a marriage.) It’s closing day for this incarnation of Miranda. But, as at the end of every baseball season, spring training is just around the corner.
I hope you’ll tune in and see how the team looks next season. I know I will.
Rachel Pastan has served as ICA’s Editor-at-Large since 2012 and is the author of three novels, most recently Alena (Riverhead, 2014). She conceived of and implemented the Miranda blog as ICA Staff Writer in 2010 with the support of Marilyn Pollick, Claudia Gould, and Jill Katz—and with help from Thom Anthony—and has written it over the past four years under the inspiring supervision of Ingrid Schaffner. Thanks to everyone at ICA for your openness to and participation in this project. Special thanks to Robert Chaney for permitting me to put words in his mouth whenever it served my purposes. All quotations from all other sources are true.