Curatorial Research Bureau

Curatorial Research Bureau

A bookshop, a learning site, an exhibition and public program, Curatorial Research Bureau unites education and consumerism inside a contemporary arts institution, prioritizing context—of art, ideas, people, places, and things—as an active ingredient in the practice of curatorial research. 


Curatorial Research Bureau

Yerba Buena Center of the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA
September 4, 2018–ongoing

Directed by James Voorhies; designed and built by Nate Padavick

Made possible with funding and support from California College of the Arts and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Produced in collaboration with Motto Books.

Located at YBCA, a dynamic Bay Area arts institution, Curatorial Research Bureau integrates CCA graduate students into the center’s institutional infrastructure, where they may bear witness to and participate in its programmatic functions as an essential part of their education. CRB is the site of focused exhibitions, academic seminars, visiting-artist projects, and public talks. 


As a bookshop, CRB is responsive to the hybridization of contemporary life, where a “bookshop/screening” or a “coffee bar/artist talk” conflate the consumption of material and immaterial culture as equally valuable modes of cultural exchange and experience. Recognizing the fuzzy line between audiences and consumers, the CRB bookshop as a consumerist form provides unique programmatic possibilities for curating art and cultural presentations.

CRB transforms the familiar consumer site into a learning site, leveraging the bookshop form for social connectivity and education as exhibition, where distinctions between the arts and entertainment are increasingly blurred.


Offering informal discussions, slide shows, readings, and performances, CRB is a forum where students, faculty, and the general public can convene for collective learning. To help produce this content, the platform invites practitioners at CCA and beyond to lead and attend events related to ideas that hold our attention as a community. Our objective is to bring audiences closer together—physically, in public space—for frequent engagement with art and ideas. To that end, we offer four programmatic models, including a focused exhibition:

AfterWord is a series of intimate, by-invitation-only gatherings with visiting arts practitioners following their larger public events at CCA and nearby institutions. The purpose is to involve graduate students, faculty, invited guests in an informal and more focused engagement with visiting practitioners, a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the topics touched upon in their formal public presentations.

Call + Response is an invitation to Bay Area cultural producers in the fields of design, architecture, humanities, civic affairs, urban planning, and more to connect with Curatorial Research Bureau by inserting their ideas and work into the public realm for open dialogue. This format draws on a long history of democratic participation, projecting thoughts and theories into civic gatherings where speaking and listening are valued equally as essential parts of productive public discourse.

Open Seminar creates opportunities for the graduate academic seminar to step into the public realm, with faculty, students, and visiting practitioners deciding how to intersect the typically reserved seminar format with a broader selection of invited attendees from the arts and culture scenes in the Bay Area.


Case Studies identifies a book to unfurl into an exhibition of archival materials, photographic reproductions, periodicals, ephemera, sound, and text that amplify ideas explored by the featured publication. 

Case Studies shapeshifts on a monthly basis, with each installment building on previous iterations. Parts and pieces—conceptually and physically—may continue to resonate over time. This program draws upon CRB book inventory as a vital resource for the practice of curating (identifying, collecting, organizing, repositioning, juxtaposing, and mediating) in the public realm.


Curatorial Research Bureau at YBCA is the hub of learning for the curatorial practice program. The situation provides an unparalleled environment for training curators. The graduate seminars are held at YBCA inside the CRB, a combined bookshop, exhibition and public program, providing an immersive learning site where students intersect with continually evolving book inventories, participate in programs, and meet visiting practitioners from the Bay Area and well beyond.