Curatorial Fellow, Howard C. Tibbals Learning Center
Bachelors of Art, major in Art History and Italian Language from Florida State University
Master’s of Art History from Virginia Commonwealth University
The Ringling: How did you make it to The Ringling?
Kelly Zacovic: I’m from Fort Myers, and I attended Florida State University. So The Ringling has always been on the radar. While attending graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University, I was interning under Mitchell Merling, a curator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, who used to be a curator at The Ringling.
He recommended that I apply for an internship, and he really recommended working with Deborah Walk (Curator of the Circus Museum). So I applied, and I got it.
How did you transition from intern to curatorial fellow?
Luck! (Laughs). The curatorial fellow revolves around departments, and it happened to be in the Circus Museum this year. I guess, I hope, they liked me. And it worked out. I definitely have a lot more responsibilities now.
I am processing a part of one of Howard Tibbals’ collections and putting together an exhibition.
What are the duties of a curatorial fellow?
In general, we have big projects. My project is processing Howard Tibbals’ large collection of European circus materials and works on paper. The European circus has not been his main focus of collecting, so many of these pieces have been stored without being catalogued. So I have been taking it out of storage, researching the items, cataloguing and digitizing them.
Now I am putting together an exhibition using some of these items called “Science and the Spectator.” It looks at three different performance areas: animal acts, human act and hot air balloon flights as ways to entertain and ways to understand man’s relationship with nature and the world. It also explores entertainment as an educating force in the 19th century.
What was the inspiration behind the “Science and the Spectator” exhibition?
I was reading articles about circus and how it was a medium of domination and education. Plus it is a really good excuse to highlight hot air balloons, which is my favorite part of this collection.
Was this an area you were interested in during your studies?
Working on exhibitions is definitely a way to work directly with the objects instead of working with them theoretically. I have always studied books and cartography, not traditional art history. That interest has spun off into these other manifestations, which is why I applied to work in an archive. I wanted to explore beyond academic art history and work with actual objects.
I am currently working on my Master’s of Library Science degree from Florida State University. Working here has pushed me into the library field.
What are some of the interesting things that you have discovered in your research here?
The circus is a lot more than under a tent with clowns. They had elephants on stage with Macbeth actors in the late 19th century. It’s not something that I ever thought about before, but it crosses genres.
What’s your favorite thing about The Ringling?
I like that I can learn about clowns and the history of performance here, and then I can walk across the lawn and look at old master’s paintings. And walk across another lawn and be by the bay. You have all of these options on one campus.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
I’m still finding my niche in Sarasota, but you cannot go wrong with going to the beach. I enjoy finding new places to hang out.
You have lived in a lot of places, can you give us an overview?
Boston, MA (until I was 2): I LOVE the city of Boston, but I'm definitely glad I got away from all that cold weather before I knew any better.
Seattle, WA (until I was 4): I wouldn't mind living here now as an adult!
Washington D.C.(pre-K through 1st grade): DC is still one of my favorite cities, and growing up there probably has a lot to do with my love of museums.
Fort Leavenworth, KS(2nd and 3rd grade): This was the greatest place to be a kid, there was nothing to do but run wild and play outside.
Lewisburg, PA (4th-7th grade): This is where I developed my love of college basketball, going to Bucknell games with my dad all the time.
Fort Myers, FL (8th-12th grade): There are worse places to go to high school.
Tallahassee, FL (college): GO NOLES!
Richmond, VA (grad school): This is the coolest city, I miss the vegetarian-friendly foodie culture and having 4 real seasons!
What do you like about Sarasota?
You are always so close to the water. I also like that it is an eccentric arts community home to the circus and other performers.