Emily Ensminger, born in Durham, NC, attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduating with a BA in Visual and Critical Studies. In college, she co-ran a multi-use venue called Sacramento House where she experienced the can-do spirit of collective living, working and hosting. Many emerging artists involved in the space have since found widespread success in music, art, organizing, and writing. Emily’s thesis drew inspiration from elements of live/work spaces: socially-engaged, interactive, ephemeral work that can mimic the ordinary or blur the lines between art and life. These experiences motivated her to advocate for artist-run spaces through a career in the alternative residency field.

After college Emily attended a year-long certificate program in urban horticulture and environmental literacy. Her desire to run a space of her own brought her back to NC to design and implement urban farms across Durham with her family. One site, built on reclaimed land, contained artifacts from a 100-year-old florist business. Emily archived the objects for an online museum, telling the history of previous tenants and drawing parallels between urban agriculture past and present.

Emily’s site-specific work led her to participate in Elsewhere Museum’s 2012 residency, where she built a vertical garden commons in their public alley. She began her career with the organization as Kitchen Manager following her residency. Drawing upon her lifelong relationship with cooking and caregiving (both parents are chefs with disabilities), she transformed the role into the House Department. Today, as a full-time paid position, House fosters the creative community through public care of Elsewhere’s facilities.

Over four years developing House, she created functional art objects used daily within the space, guiding participants through the Living Museum and Residency. Emily’s research into “living systems” led her to visit 20+ experimental spaces and interview House(pitality) workers in service, facilities, maintenance, housekeeping and food production. Recontextualizing Elsewhere’s kitchen as a learning laboratory, Emily produced educational programs around homesteading, domestic work and life skills. Collaborating with residents she curated experimental meals exploring concepts of symphonic foods, object ontologies, and accessibility.

In 2016, Emily transitioned to Programs Curator, leading the production of Elsewhere’s residency, education, and museum with a focus on experimental art outside major urban centers in the context of southern US. As Programs, she supported 75+ artists through the creation of new work guiding project proposals, production, curation and hundreds of unique public events. She assisted in making Elsewhere more inclusive and equitable, changing application and selections process, and partnering residents with Greensboro’s local communities. In 2018, Emily became Elsewhere’s Creative Director, continuing to evolve her practice in organization, systems thinking and arts administration.

Emily has presented at the Queens Museum and Open Engagement, shown work at the Flux Factory and Fung Wah Biennial and attended Andrea Zittel’s AZ West and the Wassaic Projects Camp for Rural Organizers. She has received fellowships from Common Field, Cross Currents and The Center for Creative Leadership and special invitations to master classes with Mierle Ukeles and J Morgan Puett.