Renee Zellweger

San Francisco curator Renee Zellweger creates opportunities for art to come to life. Through Summer School, she’s created a platform for creativity, ideas, and collaborations to merge, a physical place where art can be explored, documented, and engaged with. We visited Renee to discover more about how she spends her time, how she works, and what inspires the space in between.



On your work: For someone unfamiliar with the project, how do you explain the concept of Summer School?
Summer School is an evolving concept. Initially it was just a space where creators and thinkers could experiment, evolve, and present ideas formally (or informally) in a first step towards bigger executable ideas. Very quickly Summer School expanded beyond those roots and the physical space and became a platform to engage with people who inspire me. I started to document their stories and processes and explore different and more holistic ways to present their work.
Can you catch us up to speed on some of the recent and most memorable projects you’ve done under this platform?
My most memorable projects are Stan Bitters, Modern Primitive in 2014 and Carla Fernández, Design Culture Mexico in 2015, both held at Heath Ceramics Boiler Room in San Francisco. I have always been interested in artists who blur the boundaries between art, craft, and design and it is that investigation that brought me to Stan and Carla. Stan Bitters is a California-based sculptor and ceramist who was influential in shifting the form from a purely functional medium to an artistic one. He helped define the California organic modernist movement and Southern California modernist architecture of the late 50s and 60s. About three years ago I visited Stan in his studio in Fresno, CA. We quickly became friends and started cooking up ideas. I convinced Stan that he should have an exhibition – he had not had a show in over 35 years. Heath’s new exhibition space, the Boiler Room, seemed like the perfect venue for the scale of Stan’s work. Along with the show we were able to create an opportunity for an ongoing relationship between Heath and Stan. It was a wonderful fit and since then, the two have been collaborating on a number of projects. Carla Fernández is an artist, fashion designer, and design leader in ethical production and respect for intellectual property rights of artisans. I met Carla a couple of years ago through artist friends in Mexico, and knew right away I wanted to do a project with her. The story behind her work is so rich. In 2014 she had a beautiful exhibition at The Isabel Gardner Museum in Boston called "The Barefoot Designer: 
A Passion for Radical Design and Community." I proposed having a version of the Gardner Museum show at Heath’s Boiler Room, where we didn’t have to follow any specific contextual etiquette. We were free to share Carla’s work in all of its dimensions as art, as craft, as fashion and engagement. Carla and I are currently collaborating with the Studio of Lindon Schultz to bring the exhibition to Los Angeles in September.

Renee wears MARTYNA BUTTON DOWN in navy wool (coming soon)

Much of your work is centered around creating a dialogue in the creative community, and facilitating inspiration within it: can you share some recent topics that have been significant to you?
The topic that is most meaningful to me is how to create opportunities for creative ideas and artistic expressions to come to life without blurring the vision. I think there is a tendency to edit our dreams to fit into what we think is available, but I’m finding it does not have to be that way.
“I think there is a tendency to edit our dreams to fit into what we think is available, but I’m finding it does not have to be that way.”
What have been themes or specific ideas that have been omnipresent in your career?
I have always been drawn to creative mischief, my own as well as others. The best experiences in my life have been in the pursuit of or participation in ideas that lie outside of the comfort zone.
How did you first get started in your career?
I started my career as a photographer. However, quickly I recognized I enjoyed photography more as a social practice than a profession and jumped over to advertising where I learned how to champion ideas. For 10 years I enjoyed the best of both worlds. In 2009, after my children were born, I knew it was time to change things up again. I started working with a truly inspiring designer and person, Beatrice Santiccioli. Beatrice takes a very artistic approach to her work as a designer and it was through my projects with her that I started to flirt with the idea of Summer School. I didn’t have a specific vision for what it would be, but I started playing and that seemed to attract others to play with me. I was treading new waters, but at the same time I was exercising my passions (art, creative collaboration, photography, producing, storytelling) in a way that felt right for me.

Renee wears SAMARA SHIRT DRESS in black and the ESPERANZA NECK KNIT PONCHO in ivory

How do you see the role of the true curator changing as “curation” has become such a commonly-used word?
That’s a bit difficult for me to answer. I don’t really think of myself as a curator. I’m a producer playing in the art space. Luckily, it’s kinda working out.
Can you share advice for other women looking to work for themselves and carve their own career?
Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want. The more explicit you are the closer you get.
Do you ever go through times of feeling creatively stagnant or uninspired? If so, what do you do to reset?
Sure. But I don’t mind those moments of congestion. I just see them as growing pains. My best remedy is to go toward chaos; I pack up my six-year-old rebel twins and road trip. I find great inspiration in not having a plan and wandering.

What is your favorite quotation?
I don’t really have a favorite quote. The first one that comes to mind is “Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go.” — Margaret Walker. I also think of “Take responsibility for making your own life beautiful.” — Timothy Leary, Your Brain is God
Can you recommend a book, article, or other written piece you think everyone should read?
Just Kids by Patti Smith. 
What objects have been of recent significance to you?
For Christmas my husband and boys gave me a necklace made of rocks and gold by Lou Zeldis. I practically never take it off.
What is a typical day in the life for you?
I drop my children off at school, head to The Mill for a coffee, and spend an hour thinking about future dream projects. Then I head to my studio and get to work. Before collecting the children I try to walk for an hour on the beach. I typically invite a friend who inspires me to join. Then I pick up The Rebels and the happy mayhem begins.

Renee wears SAMARA SHIRT DRESS in navy wool (coming soon)