Jesse McKee (b.1984) is a leader in the Culture Industries, a Curator of Contemporary Art and Design, and he is the Head of Strategy at 221A. 221A works with artists and designers to research and develop social, cultural and ecological infrastructure. There, he leads the Organization’s advancement, communications, research, and programming. The organization develops and operates 14 000 m2 of cultural-use commercial and residential real-estate across a portfolio of properties that are sub-tenanted according to a cost-recovery operating model. 221A’s artistic program hosts long-term Fellowships for artists and designers, as well as producing public realm art and design projects, and develops education and learning programs, which work with communities to improve the public amenities and reduce barriers at the organization’s cultural infrastructures and beyond. From 2019-24, McKee is the lead investigator on 221A’s Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks Digital Strategy, which is developing a digitally cooperative culture by “recommoning” land, data and objects.
From 2020-22, he is a member of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s Policy Advisory Council, and he is challenged by rebooting cities and public culture venues in equitable, novel and progressive ways in the wake of the COVID-19 long-tail global pandemic. Previously, he was the Curator of The Banff Centre (2011-15), and has worked with leading cultural organizations such as Western Front, Vancouver; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; The Independent Studio & Curatorial Program, New York; The Barbican Centre, London; Things that can happen, Hong Kong and Tranzit.org, Romania. In 2017, he was the curator of Vancouver Special: Ambivalent Pleasures, the inaugural edition of a civic triennial exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. McKee has served as a juror for the Sobey Art Award, and was a member of the Canada Council for the Art’s Asia Pacific Delegation.
He has written essays and reviews for Canadian Art, C Magazine, Fillip, Border Crossings, Kaleidoscope, and Cura. A recent catalogue essay, Surreal Ghosts and Neuroplastic Ancestors correlates Julia Feyrer and Tamara Henderson’s filmmaking with the neuroplastic effects of Vancouver’s economic enclosure over the past decade; published by the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia and Institute for Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. A recent monograph on the work of the artist Neïl Beloufa, People, Love, War, Data & Travels, includes an essay by McKee, Counting on People: How it Started… How it’s Going, and this text frames the productions of Beloufa’s films from the mid-2010s as they foretold a global pandemic all enacted through video calls, amid the consequences of social media’s unchecked narrative accelerants; edited by Myriam Ben Salah with Benjamin Thorel, and published by After 8 Books, Paris.