In Spring 2023, The Block welcomed Chris Forrester as Communications Coordinator. With a background in journalism, Chris joins The Block team to partner in our storytelling. He will focus on generating coverage outreach, and resources that showcase the Block’s work and extend our interdisciplinary teaching, learning and research mission. We sat down with Chris to learn more about his work and path to The Block.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your field of study?
Absolutely! I graduated from Indiana University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, the end of an educational path that took me through arts journalism, features writing and film criticism and into the world of communications and public relations. I became attracted to that kind of work because it felt to me like a very fascinating opportunity to dig deep within an institution for all of the essential work, captivating stories and more that goes unnoticed there, and then to have an opportunity to tell those stories in support of its mission. I started out doing that as a reporter and communications assistant for IU’s media program, and that helped me continue to hone my reporting chops on stories about art and media makers, which have of course always been close to my heart. I’m excited to bring those fascinations to The Block Museum!
How did you find your way to the museum work?
Well, I’m very excited to say that doing communications for The Block is actually my first bona fide museum job. But the way I ended up here has, obviously, as much to do with my background in arts and cinema as with my experience in PR and communications. Much of my reported work as a journalist and PR specialist has centered on film and artmaking, and so it felt like both a goal and a natural progression for me to take that directly to a museum or gallery space. I’ve also always been fascinated by the preservation and curation side of the art world, especially in film, so that’s an obvious attractor to museum work, too.
What particularly interests you about working within the context of a campus art museum?
I worked a lot alongside my undergraduate university’s cinema (the IU Cinema) as a reporter, and that really opened my eyes to the capacity of campus art spaces to be a transformative sort of educational third place. Seeing the way that the cinema’s programming could reform someone’s entire worldview just by playing Persona (Bergman, 1966) on a Sunday afternoon completely changed the way I thought about arts and arts accessibility, which has also become a huge passion of mine. So there’s sort of two levels to this: the way that campus arts spaces can be non-classroom, non-curricular but still totally vital modes of learning is one, and the other is of course that campus arts spaces are often free and so offer their communities (beyond even just campus/student communities) a vital resource.
What drew you to the Block Museum? What are you looking forward to working on?
Since graduating in 2021, there’s been a campus arts scene-sized/shaped hole in my life, and The Block Museum seemed to me not only a way to fill it, but *the* way. It has everything that’s important to me: an always exciting rotation of gallery shows (the current Dario Robleto show is a must-see), its own art cinema, and a great team to boot. I was also really attracted to the prospect of getting to kind of trailblaze a bit by way of reported storytelling about goings-on at The Block; arts writing is always near and dear to my heart, so the opportunity to do communications work in support of such a great museum while also still getting to write journalistically about the lovely people and pieces of art in the spotlight feels like a dream combination of all of my interests.
What museum exhibitions or programs (outside the Block) have inspired you lately?
Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project is a kind of perennial obsession of my cinephilia; it’s technically a project more than a program, but the folks at Criterion present it as the latter as both an installment-based home video release and a streaming program, and that’s what I’ve come to love it as. The primary reason for that is that it functions as both curation and preservation – these are films that, in a number of cases, might otherwise be lost to the sands of time, but because of the Film Foundation’s work, their importance has been cemented and preserved for future generations. Any given film that the project has restored is a glimpse at a part of world cinema that feels totally singular and revitalizing to one’s love of film. The project is a reminder of all that film is, has been, and can be.
Is there anything upcoming at the Block Museum or Northwestern you are particularly excited about?
As of writing this, Apichatpong Weerasethakul is at The Block for a short residency as the 2023 Hoffman Visiting Artist for Documentary Media, which is just huge to me. I first came to Weerasethakul’s work in 2019 as I was frantically seeking out the best films of the 2010s for fear of not having a cool enough “Best of the Decade!” list by the end of the year, and that led me to “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (Weerasethakul, 2010). I was so completely unprepared for what that movie was but it blew my then fledgling appreciation of cinema wide open and cemented Weerasethakul as someone I return to anytime I’m thinking about what cinema is and can be. So having him here is, of course, as one of the film programs titles itself, a blessing. He’s an incredible artist and thinker and I can’t wait to bask in every image of his films (on celluloid, no less!) and every word of his Q&As.