Baxter St Director Jil Weinstock Rejuvenates With a Dry Cappuccino, a Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge, and the Company of Emerging Artists
We spoke to the executive director of Baxter Street at Camera Club of New York about what she values in art and life.
So much of the art world orbits around questions of value, not only in terms of appraisals and price tags, but also: What is worthy of your time in These Times, as well as your energy, your attention, and yes, your hard-earned cash?
What is the math that you do to determine something’s meaning and worth? What moves you? What enriches your life? In this new series, we’re asking individuals from the art world and beyond about the valuations that they make at a personal level.
Jil Weinstock is a true art-world multi-hyphenate. Named the executive director at Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York in the fall of 2020, Weinstock is also an artist, educator, and curator who is passionate about the ways art can foster change.
“These roles overlap and merge into one,” Weinstock explained. “My experiences in these roles have forged a deep and nuanced connection with art and culture and helped define my purpose across all aspects of my life.”
Over more than 15 years in the art world, Weinstock has held positions at the Whitney Museum, New Museum, the Drawing Center, and the Children’s Museum of the Arts, defining a unique ability to draw in new audiences. At Baxter St, Weinstock has been a driving force in developing engaging exhibitions and programs while simultaneously implementing long-term strategies for staff development and sustainability.
The Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based creative is also celebrated for her evocative artistic practice, which encompasses photography, sculpture, drawing, and textiles. Mining memory, childhood, and nostalgia, her redolent works have at times incorporated childhood toys or vintage nightgowns to powerful effect.
Weinstock believes her artistic practice has strengthened her ability as a cultural leader. “In merging my identity as an artist with the responsibility of running an arts organization, I have found a collaboration between creative expression and community advancement. I can create an ecosystem for others to explore their artistic practices as I nurture my own path as an artist,” she said.
When she does take a moment to unwind, Weinstock values family time with her partner Eric and two kids Eloise and Ryder at home in Brooklyn. On occasion, the family sets off on a big trip; a recent journey to Morocco has inspired the family on many levels.
This fall, we caught up with Weinstock to learn more about what she values in art and life—and why.
What is the last thing that you splurged on?
During the height of lockdown in 2020, I spent a great deal of time with my two kids and my partner looking, reading about, and dreaming of distant places. It was a way for us to cope with all the feelings. This past year, our children—now young adults—hit major milestones, and we splurged on a celebration trip to Morocco. We focused on fully immersing ourselves in the country’s artistry, culture, history, and beauty. With the recent earthquake that took so many lives and destroyed so much of the areas we visited, we are focused on giving back and supporting incredible organizations like Global Giving, CARE, and Doctors Without Borders.
What is something that you’re saving up for?
More travel, more art, more learning, more giving.
What would you buy if you found $100?
I am assuming there is no way to return it? I would treat my colleagues who work so hard every day supporting the artists and community we work with at Baxter St. It is a small but mighty organization, and their dedication and tireless efforts make the organization thrive.
What makes you feel like a million bucks?
Connective and quiet moments, deep conversations, making a difference, and a morning dry cappuccino.
What do you think is your greatest asset?
Working as a practicing artist and leading an arts nonprofit is a powerful and demanding combination. It’s essential to manage my time and energy effectively to have space for creativity, reflection, and innovation amidst the hustle of nonprofit management.
The combination of serving as the executive director of Baxter St and working as an artist with gallery representation provides unique insights into the administrative and artistic aspects of each role. I have a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the needs and challenges faced by artists with whom we work at Baxter. This artist-centric approach ensures that we can meet artists where they are and that the organization’s initiatives align closely with the creative aspirations of its community.
What do you most value in a work of art?
Everything. I value work that is moving a conversation forward, taking creative risks, and sits with you even when you are not in its presence. I value the time, energy, and passion that goes into making a work of art. These are the elements we look for in the artists of all ages, races, ethnicities, and identities with whom we work at Baxter. Their work inspires diverse conversations on culture, human rights, and racial equality, one project at a time.
Who is an emerging artist worthy of everyone’s attention?
As my days at Baxter St are focused on introducing emerging artists worthy of everyone’s attention and helping them advance their careers, I could never pick just one. So perhaps the best answer is: come see who we are working with! Currently on view in our main gallery is Darryl DeAngelo Terrel’s solo exhibition “It’s Never Too Late To Admit You Love Me,” comprising self-portraits that explore desire and the identity and body politics of being deemed worthy of love. On view in our Project Space is Daniel Ramos’s “Eres Muy Hermosa,” a series of large-scale portraits of working-class people in Monterrey, Mexico, which shines a light on people who are routinely overlooked or regularly go unnoticed. Our upcoming exhibition, Material Evidence is with artists Nazanin Noroozi and Esperanza Mayobre, curated by Jenna Hamed.
What, in your estimation, is the most overrated thing in the art world?
The term “overrated” in the art world begs for sensitivity and respect for diverse perspectives. One aspect I find worthy of discussion is the commodification of art, especially when it overshadows the values of inclusivity and social justice. While the art market and commercial success can bring recognition to artists, galleries, and institutions, it can sometimes prioritize financial gain over art’s broader social and cultural significance. This often results in the marginalization of voices and perspectives.
It’s important to strike a balance between recognizing the market’s role in supporting artists and institutions and ensuring that art remains a force for change and continues to contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the world and our collective progress.
What is your most treasured possession?
I choose to define possession as to care, to hold dear, to belong to. In this context, my family is my most treasured possession. I treasure our time together, the traditions we are creating, the discussions we are having—as my kids would say, “chilling together is the best feeling.” I treasure all those moments—the good, the bad, the ugly.
What’s been your best investment?
Education! I have a continuous and enthusiastic commitment to learning, absorbing, experiencing, reading, looking, and creating. I seem to have a boundless curiosity that has taken my career on a unique journey. I am an artist, art administrator, curator, educator, partner, and mother. I am open-minded and motivated to explore, adapt, and evolve intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. I consider myself a lifelong learner and my education takes on many shapes – some formal and some out of the box!
What is something small that means the world to you?
Walking! And I just don’t mean to and from the subway, picking kids up at school or heading to Baxter—I walk across the Brooklyn Bridge several times a week, make my rounds through all the piers at Brooklyn Bridge Park, take the ferry to Rockaway Beach and walk along the water during any season. It clears my mind, gives me an attitude adjustment, and helps with problem-solving. Sometimes I do it with friends or call my parents and siblings who all live in California. And sometimes I just listen to music or podcasts.
What do you believe is a worthy cause?
We are living in a time in which it feels like all aspects of life are being challenged and are in need of support, care, protection, and honesty: environmental conservation, social justice, healthcare access, education, poverty, mental health, humanitarian aid, gender equality, homelessness, hunger, LGBTQ+ rights, antisemitism, the list goes on.
The power of images and the core tenets of Baxter St’s mission not only support equity and representation in visual culture but also advocacy for inclusive image-making practices. Creative freedom has been paramount to Baxter St’s mission since its founding by Alfred Stieglitz 139 years ago—yes, Baxter St is about to celebrate 140 years in 2024!
What do you aspire to?
I aspire to give, nurture, and create more and more—both in my artistic practice and at Baxter St. It’s such an exciting time of growth at Baxter that I have to consciously commit to investing in my own art.
At Baxter St, I am focused on increasing our financial support for artists and opportunities for them to exhibit, as well as expanding other platforms on which they can share their work and spark conversation. A little over 10 years ago, Baxter St’s President Michi Jigarjian and the board led a revitalization of the organization, moving it to a vibrant neighborhood in the midst of Chinatown. We’ve launched partnerships with peer nonprofits such as YoungArts, Aperture, and Stoneleaf Retreat, and we co-founded a DEIA Task Force with other nonprofit arts organizations in NYC to increase equity, resilience, and impact across the cultural sector. I aspire to continue this ambitious trajectory for the Baxter St community.
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