Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

Author Archive

Interviews and more Research (August 6-11)

Monday, August 13, 2012 8:56 pm

This was the first full week I worked for UMOCA, and it was a long one. To make an accurate glimpse of the daily life at the museum, I had to be here every hour that it was open. I attempted to count the number of minutes for which each group was in the gallery, but this became difficult when five or six different groups were in at once. I started on Wednesday and will finish up tomorrow to get a full week, but two different weeks where different conferences may be in town. Wednesday was relatively easy and I got information on every group that was in for over 10 minutes. I felt satisfied and excited, only to feel exasperated on Friday when I had failed to grab many of the over 30 groups (over 100 people) who came in over the ten-hour span of interviews.

Overall I have learned a lot about who comes in here and what they think of the museum. Most people either have been coming in for years, saw us on the internet, or saw the street signs and came in (about half). I will give more accurate numbers in my next post, as I have not yet organized the data. The best part of this experience was the people. I had some amazing conversations about the art itself, what a museum should do, and what we could do to make it better. The best suggestion we had was so obvious, and yet something that only the public could really tell us. Two seventy-five-year-old women told me that they had to leave the main gallery early, because there was nowhere to sit and contemplate the works. We then talked about how one can get so much more out of an exhibition if they are allowed time to consider it without getting tired like in all major museums, which have benches in front of most works. It is suggestions like this and many others that allow us to be the best we can and it was great to know that through my own initiative in setting up this survey, I could be helping make it happen. There were also conversations that helped me learn about why people come to museums and what these works mean to the public. I got to discuss a lot of the works and what they meant to people. It was fascinating to see how some people were truly insulted or changed by a single work and how others came out completely unaffected. It was amazing to me how I began to see a link between an individual’s answer to my first questions (how they found out about UMOCA and how old they are) to which exhibitions they liked. I also saw a connection between people’s occupations and what works they liked (for example a woman who exercises old people loved the piece where survivors of the Soviet rule in Slovakia show with smiles on their faces the exercise regiments they were required to participate in over 25 years ago. The woman said she was moved to near tears by the ability of these people to relive such terrible memories with smiles on their faces, and she commented that she wanted to get up and dance with the). It was great to see Moulton’s success in providing an exhibit which ha enough levels of representation that the intellectual and the casual tourist could both be entertained and intellectually stimulated.

While I learned a lot about the museum and the public’s relationship with it, I also learned a lot about market research. I learned it is impossible to interview everybody and that all data is skewed at least to some extent. I wanted everything to be perfect and had to come to terms with the fact that as one intern I can only get a good sample of the activity at the museum, but my professionalism is limited. In an almost humorous irony, I missed three interviews and a lot of gallery time data, because I got swept into an enlightening conversation with a man who does market research in New York. His firm maps department stores and museums through video and programming technology to see where people spend their time. He complemented me on attempting to do what they do everyday with much better technology than a pencil, a wheeled chair, and a stopwatch.

I have a long week ahead of me, filled with data organization and entry as well as the finale of all my research. I am currently in the middle of three projects, which will culminate in two different __. First, my research both of museums and the public will lead to five different lists of suggestions and data for the different departments, which will let them know who is coming in and what we can do to accomadate their needs. The second project is research on how people are finding out about the museum. I am finding which tourist websites and books have or don’t have our name as well as which ones people are going to (from the market research). I am making a wikipedia page and suggesting which sites we should pursue to get our information on the website. There are some where we are on their with old info and our old name, so I may be calling or emailing people to get these things changed.

Thanks for reading and I should have loads more info by next week when I am finalizing these projects,

 

Brooks

The Art Historical Theme and More Research (July 15-30)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 12:07 am

I am back to work today after a vacation where I could not seem to get away from my internship. I finished up the museum research while away and have been thinking a lot about what makes a museum more successful. I got to visit multiple museums in Boston and spent considerable time in the MFA talking to gallery attendants and perusing the new contemporary wing. My new task is to organize the many notes I have taken on the many US museums into lists of general information and suggestions for the different departments at UMOCA. I have already made a list of the different admission prices for all age groups including what days they offer special deals and who they let in free. We are considering revising our pricing structure, so now that we know what museums all over and of all sizes offer, we can consider all the options. I also found different averages based on size or type (exhibition versus collection), to try to narrow down what might work for us.

Starting on August 8th, I will spend a week where I am at the museum every minute that we are open, so I can do a comprehensive survey. I will ask about admission (have they paid for admission at other places), demographics (age and location), and exhibitions (favorites and would they change any). This survey will also help with the pricing, because it will let us know what age groups are most present in the museum and how we can base our advertising and pricing around these figures. I am excited for this project, but nervous because I do not know how it will play out and if people will be willing to answer my questions.

At this point I see myself as valuable to the museum in that I am gathering information that they do not yet have. With less than five full-time employees, the relatively new museum has had to focus most of its time and money on operation and growth. They have acquired interns like me and University of Utah students to be the ones who have time to look at the museum as a whole and see what we can do a little better to improve growth, efficiency, and public awareness. At this point it feels like I have done nothing, because my work has yet to be evaluated, but I have the feeling that it will come together in the next couple weeks, and that is why I am continuing to work hard to get it done.

Even without considering the entrepreneurial aspect of the internship, my time at UMOCA has been a great success in regards to the themes through which I have organized my learning experience here. Last post I talked about the internship in regards to my future career, so now I would like to briefly discuss its more art historical aspect. The question of how the public experiences a work of art and to what extent they “understand” or interact with it will be better answered after the survey. My conversation with Aaron Moulton, our head curator, gave me a curatorial perspective on how an exhibition should be set up to allow for all different levels of understanding and interaction. I asked Aaron about the disconnect between the average museum-going public and the seemingly closed-in contemporary art community, and his response was that he felt it was his job to bring art that “is accessible, based in fact, and rooted in reality.” He believes that the art based in fashion and motivated by the desire to be new is what has created this negative image of the contemporary art world as “pompous” and selective. The museum has a program called, “Art Fitness” for adults to learn more about how the contemporary art world functions and in Moulton’s words “to give them confidence in discussions involving contemporary art” and to eradicate the belief that in regards to a specific work, they “have to say the right thing.”

Moulton has created a group exhibition called Canastoria. The Italian title directly translates as “history singer” or “sung story,” and refers to the theatrical form of story telling that relies on painted, printed or drawn image along with gestures to tell a fuller story. Moulton describes the theme in the program as exploring “the museum’s primary function as a storyteller of culture while the artworks poetically decode our diaristic instincts and desires.” To me he explained it as a recipe where the 21 different ingredients (exhibits) with four different distinct flavors (themes that in Canastoria are as follows: news media, technology, language, and material witness/journalism) create one exquisite dish. He explained that in each category there had to be an equal amount of engagement/level of understanding overall so that there would be one piece representative of the theme that allows for surface level comprehension like a comprehensive list of the world’s languages, but another that requires high-level engagement like Pablo Helguera’s Archive of Dead and Dying Languages. This piece is a collection of wax phonograph cylinders of recordings of extinct languages. It emphasizes silence and shows the fragility and ironic incapability of technology that instead of leaving a “lasting preservation” shows only “ghostly echoes of human speech.” Both pieces consider the concept of communication through language, but the message of one is visual (the list of languages, Inventory by Ignasi Aballi, shows how many different ways humans have found to communicate) while the other requires a deeper reflection on the sound of language and its fragility combined with the idea of time’s destructive capabilities. With these two ends of the spectrum as well as much inbetween, all viewers can get something out of the museum experience, which is ultimately what Moulton is concerned with.

Moulton gave me hope for the contemporary art world and the relationship with the public. I fear that if more curators focus on fashion and do not have Moulton’s desire for accessibility in art, then the contemporary art world will vanish into obscurity. We also have an exhibit here called, Mr. Winkle: an object of Projection. This piece is interesting, because it has a huge public appeal as it shows images of the same expressionless dog in different positions. Moulton says it does not leap into pop art or kitsch, because the selected works reference the history of photography. The catalog explains this idea, but one must look for it and few do. He says that people should not be forced into engagement, but given this choice and I agree, but I believe that this type of exhibition also allows for a kitsch crowd and a kitsch mindset. While mass pop culture invading on every aspect of our lives is part of the world we live on, I believe that an art museum should be a haven for culture and discussion that leads to further insight. And yet, the amount of discussion that has gone on in regards to this one piece proves ironically that “high culture” exists only if people engage in it. It is our job to provide the discussion and the work that allows for engagement and I think Mr. Winkle does just that.

I have found myself rambling again, but I hope some of this makes a degree of sense.

See you in a week, Brooks

Back to the Themes and Inventory! (June 28 – July 14)

Thursday, July 26, 2012 9:38 pm

It has been a long time since my last post and the reason is because a lot of what I have been up to has been working on projects that I have already mentioned. The biggest one is the museum research. I have been working on compiling notes on contemporary art museums around the country and the globe. I am getting close to the end of my list of museums and will soon be creating documents with suggestions for the different departments at UMOCA based on the information I have gathered from my research. I will describe this project more in my next post at the end of this week, because I will hopefully have finished that project and have more to explain.

In this post I would like to reflect on one of the three themes I described in my first post that have been floating through my mind throughout the internship. The first theme is a reflection on my future and how a museum job relates to my long-term desire to work in the art business world. Here I have been focusing on learning how a museum is run and what the different departments and people do to make it run smoothly. Other activities this summer have contributed to this thought process including finishing the book 7 Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton and a meeting with a gallery owner in Montana that represents my father. Another theme that does not directly apply to the work I am doing here is a more academic concept that has developed in my art historical studies at Wake. It refers to how the public experiences art and has been informed through my experience as a receptionist for UMOCA and through discussions I have had with museum attendees, other Wake student bloggers, and other employees at UMOCA. I will discuss this theme with my next post. The final theme references the entrepreneurial work I am doing at the museum and will be described in this post as a discussion of the inventory project that I participated in two weeks ago.

As I move into my junior year in college, the thought that is always on my mind and influenced by every daily interaction is what I want to do with the rest of my life. I am majoring in art history, but every day I see myself move towards a future that includes some aspect of the business world. I like some of the work I am doing, but what excites me the most is when I have the opportunity to affect the financial success of the organization as a whole. With a non-profit like UMOCA this opportunity is less black and white, but still exists with projects like researching other museums and demographic surveys. The organization is so small that every department has only one full time employee and I have been able to talk to most of them about what they do and why they like it. The job that seems most like what I want to do is the Communication Director. She is in charge of marketing, PR, social media, etc. and to me she has the biggest impact on how the museum does success-wise. I also got to meet and converse with a group of students from the University of Utah who are working on a PR campaign and they liked some of my ideas and told me about their studies. I met with the Head Curator, Aaron Moulton, a man who (like our Director, Adam Price) is way over qualified for the size of our museum and could be working in much bigger markets. After talking with Aaron I was very impressed by his modesty. When I asked him if he considered himself an artist, he said absolutely not and that for curators, “the art is to disappear.” He said he chose Utah, because he saw the opportunity to build a culture of contemporary art here and he has begun to do just that. I walked away from our meeting with more respect for the job of curator, but also with the knowledge that this was not the work for me. I don’t want to disappear and I am not modest enough to create a beautiful and functional group exhibition and not have anyone know my name. I will talk more about my discussion with Aaron in my next post as it pertains more to the second theme.

All summer I have been slowly reading Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton where she outlines the different areas that people can work in the art world. It is fascinating to see how the different jobs are so different and require unique skills. I was able to easily cross off the list “artist” and collector as I lack the skills and financial assets to jump into careers in either. That left art critic, curator, auctioneer, and dealer. After my discussion with Aaron I learned I do not have the modesty for a curator. Last week I went to Montana for a couple days and got to meet and “shadow” a very successful gallery owner in Bozeman. I was impressed with the way he ran his business and the confident heir he carried with him in every interaction he encountered in our brief hour-long “meeting” where I was acknowledged for only the last twenty minutes. He told me that he runs a business and is a salesman but could sell anything he wanted to, he just picked art. He says he refuses to hire art history majors, because they tend to be obsessed with talking about the pieces and fail to actually sell art. As pretentious as he was, I admired and respected him for his dedication to his job and his confidence that has allowed him to take the number one grossing gallery award from his mentor next door.While I cannot make a definitive claim for what I would like to do with my life, this summer has so far provided many opportunities to learn more about myself and the potential careers.

The entrepreneurial work I did this “post-week” was with the art shop. I took inventory of the works we have on display and got to see what we have and what sells. We have a small craft-type art gallery in the front space and everybody that walks through the museum steps into it. The inventory was interesting, because it gave me a sense of what running an art shop is like and what type of things sell. Nothing over $100 had sold in the lost year, indicating that people rarely go to a museum with a big wallet. Later this summer I will join my supervisor at the craft fair to help her look for potential artists to sell.

Sorry for the lengthened time between posts as I forgot to publish this one last week. My next one will be very soon!Thanks for reading, Brooks

 

 

 

Special Events (June 12-22)

Monday, June 25, 2012 7:02 pm

This last week and half was a time of events for UMOCA, and I ended up working at five of them. The week started with an AP Graders conference and reception on Tuesday (the 12th). I could only come for the second half, but I helped clean up and got to see the more personal side of life at UMOCA. These events require one or two employees and as many volunteers who will show up (often paid part time workers and interns fill these spots). Therefor, everyone who is here at 10:00 PM on a Tuesday cleaning everything up is here by their own choice. It was also nice to be at an event where it really felt like we were just doing a service. We were open extra hours and provided dinner for high school art and art history teachers, so they could explore the museum when they otherwise would not be able to. We were also open extra hours the next night for them, but without a reception. That night I got to meet and chat with many of the graders who were interesting people with similar interests to me and great advice.

On Friday night we had a big opening for three of our exhibitions. We fit more than 450 people in the museum that I thought could hardly fit a couple hundred. The exhibitions that were opening were the “Play me, I’m Yours,” “Canastoria,” and “Casting Jesus.” “Canastoria” is our main one right now which features the giant book wall and many other pieces that play with the theme of language and how it can confuse, explain, and be transformed into meaningless building material (each book that when stacked with others becomes a giant wall weighing in at 55,000 pounds). My favorite exhibition is the “Play Me, I’m Yours,” which is a street art sensation by Luke Jerram. Salt Lake is the twenty-third city to get the opportunity to host Jerram and I found out in briefly meeting him how normal an artist can be and how sometimes it is just a brilliant idea not a quirky personality that can create a world-renowned artwork/exhibition. The work involved ten pianos painted by local artists that were spread around Salt Lake. I have written more about this piece and the opening on the Start Gallery blog at Local Color . All of the pianois invite the public to, “Play Me, I’m Yours,” and it has been uplifting and exciting to be a part of this interactive experience. Every time I walk into work I see people smiling and jamming on the pianos. At the opening we had a professional play outside and that day every news channel covered the press release, so it has been very cool to see UMOCA get city-wide coverage. Since the opening I have seen many groups of people come in, grab a map of piano sites, and go to all ten to jam out and dance.

This exhibition which ends on Friday, applies directly to one of the themes I mentioned in my first post about the relationship between the public and the art. The main issue is how can art uplift and touch the homeless man on the street corner at the same time that it stimulates the intellectual. I feel like this piece does exactly that. Not only does it expose the work of nine Utah artists (one was painted by the UMOCA youth program) directly to the public, but it allows any person off the street to interact with the piece and to entertain the rest of the public through another medium. I met a man who leaves for work a half hour early everyday so he can practice the piano since his is too old and beat-up to sound beautiful to him anymore. To me this man’s story is the epitome of what I think art should do. There is no extra intellectual level required to “understand” this piece, but instead it is art at its truest and most accessible form. And yet in my opinion it follows the progression of “high art” in that it is one of few works in UMOCA that involves painting.

I have gotten a bit off track here, but I really love this piece and it has made me change my opinion about the power to reach the public of museums (in relation to galleries and fairs and other avenues where art is more commodified). Of all the people that came to the reception, few were dressed in expensive clothes. I saw a range of people from strict Mormons to punk teenagers to wealthy patrons and middle aged couples out on “date night.” Their backgrounds did not matter when they all followed our senior curator around the “Canastoria” exhibition for a tour. I was jealous of them getting to hear his thoughts on each piece as I walked around replacing each volunteer so they could get a break. I have always said that while I want to work with art in the future, I never want to be the guy who sits in a chair and prohibits any food or drink from entering the gallery. After this week and hours of doing so, I know I definitely do not want that job. The job is too similar to Parking Enforcement to me as I feel uncomfortable telling people they cannot enter until they finish their food. One board member pointed to his name tag when I asked him to step out of the gallery and when I said he still had to leave, gave me a look that indicated he would do what he could to make me lose my job. But, I am still here and he got to chug his beer so it all works out.

The last events were the Utah Arts Festival and the “Casting Jesus” discussion. The arts festival is an annual four-day event in downtown Salt Lake. It takes up two blocks and is crowded for ten of the twelve hours a day that it is open. I worked for UMOCA at the Art Yard where we had a tent making thaumatropes for kids. This was a fun three hours and I got to see the more charitable side of UMOCA. We would give stencils or blank drawings for kids to make two images that when pasted on either side of a stick and spun around, blended together. It was cool that it fit for all ages and even parents had fun making some. I barely did anything except occasionally glue papers together and just facilitate fun!

On Friday we had a discussion panel for the “Casting Jesus” movie. The movie is an hour long imitation of a casting show like American Idol where four “Jesus actors” are pitted up against each other in a room in the Vatican for the job of being “Jesus”. I had seen the movie before and thought it was a humorous staging but after hearing the artist, Christian Jankowski, explain it, I found a new appreciation for his work. He spent months trying to find someone in the Vatican who would let him do this and finally got the head of propaganda (the man that limits what blasphemous words and activities are allowed in the church), a top casting agent in Rome, and another high ranking Vatican official to be his panel. The actors were real “Jesus actors” and the casting was not staged, but instead just filmed.

All in all this last week and a half was much less about doing work for the museum and more about the art historical and intellectual themes I have set out to explore. The entrepreneurial part will come back a little more this next week, but it is nice to be able to focus on my studies and how they relate to the real world. Thanks for reading and let me know if you guys have any questions or want to discuss further anything I have mentioned.

Best Regards from Utah,

Brooks

Post Gala and my Projects (June 4-12)

Thursday, June 21, 2012 11:42 pm

As I’m sure you have noticed, my blogging has not followed a strict schedule, but neither does my internship. My hours are slightly erratic because of all the special events we have (which I will explain in the next post) and because of my unique position here at UMOCA. I work anywhere from 20 to 30 hours per week and will be doing so all summer. I therefor have organized my posts to describe roughly every 40 hours worth of work and to be organized more so by theme of the jobs described rather than by time. This “week” involved recovering from the gala and going over the projects that I will be working on the rest of the summer.

The Monday after the Gala was almost as hectic as the event itself, because there was so much to clean up and put back together. Also, everyone felt a little off from having put so much effort and stress into ensuring a successful Gala, so it was difficult to find motivation for the mundane tasks like mopping the main gallery floor. Once the dust had settled there were little things to do to make everything go back to normal but it was remarkable how fast that happened.

The following Thursday my direct “boss” and head of the visitors services department, Maggie Willis, talked with me about my ideas for the internship and some projects she had lined up for me. We went through the normal tasks for the visitor service interns including all of the front desk things and the work for the art shop. Later this week I went through all of our consignment information to create a spreadsheet that will help us decide whose work is doing well and who we should replace. That was a fun and useful task, because I got to see what kind of work we have for sale and which ones are doing well.

The other big task I received was to do research on other museums. I complied a list of contemporary art museums around the country and am in the process of finding their pricing structures, how their website looks, and any other programs they have to bring people in or help promote art in the community. While doing this research I found that our museum does not come up that often in travel searches, so I am also compiling a list of all of the websites that do not mention us. I will eventually write a proposal for how we can get our name to these websites and get a little more advertising. This task was something I found and I am excited to be able to contribute to the museum’s success if I can make a solid proposal. I also found that we have no wikipedia page, so now I have the task of creating one and submitting it to the head of communications to edit and propose to the director. This project is really fun to me, because it takes learning how to function in wikipedia, researching other museums’ wikipedia pages, and writing the page to make us look good and to fit into the mold of other pages. And, after completion, it will be on the world wide web for everyone to read, comment, and change.

In conclusion this week and a half made me feel much more comfortable about my position here and gave me things to work on that could provide tangible and important changes to the museum.

Thanks for reading and the next post should be soon,

Brooks

The Gala (June 2nd)

Friday, June 15, 2012 9:57 pm

UMOCA’s annual Gala fundraiser was on June 2nd. As an intern who got to town only two weeks before the event, I was surprised at my own role in this spectacular event. The Gala White Party was a 6-hour “party”consisting of a silent auction, art auction, dinner and live auction, 2 open bars, and lots of important people in white. This event is responsible for the majority of the capital received by the non-profit museum (we do not charge an admission fee, so the only other revenue source is donations). Therefor, it is understandable how important it was that the event ran smoothly. The Gala is a fundraiser with a $200 ticket just to get in. This year’s Gala was the most successful in the 80-year history of the museum, almost quadrupling last year’s fund-raising efforts.

The preparation for the Gala is tremendous and involves lots of volunteers, work from the new interns, and a few employees whose sole job is to create a successful night. The week leading up to the Gala found me with all sorts of little jobs like finding pictures for the live auction slide show and completely transforming the front art shop into four rows of silent auction items. I also got to work on my designing skills by making the stickers for the winning sheets. There were many little things that had to be perfect to make the museum look spotless and the auctions flow swimmingly, and it was really cool to see everyone in the museum work hard together to make it happen.

On the day of the event I came in at 10:00 AM, left for an hour to change and was not out of the museum until 11:00 PM. The last minute work was the most fun with everything coming together and the anticipation of a years worth of preparation finally coming to fruition. This work involved organizing client check-in information and setting up tables. Each patron had a folder with a parking pass and dinner table number, and I recognized many of them as important figures around the city (the Eccles family whose name is on many buildings on the University of Utah campus had their own table). The beginning of the event was slightly anticlimactic as my job turned from securing important final adjustments to standing in a corner at the silent auction making conversation about the items with potential bidders. The most exciting part of the night found me with an important role as a spotter for the live auction. During dinner the auction was staged with an auctioneer rattling off numbers and relying on the spotters to point out the raised programs of potential bidders. The most fascinating part of the night for me was when donations were thrown around as auction items and more than $15,000 was given to the museum in a matter of minutes.

The Gala was an amazing experience, because I got to see how the museum functions in raw form. It was an interesting dynamic described by one museum employee as “the perfect display of capitalism with the people in black (all volunteers wore black with a white accent in the form of a tie or head band and all patrons were asked to wear white) serving and hoping to please the rich white people who held the wallets.” While his description was a little extreme, I definitely felt the presence of a perceived class difference. It was more that as employees of the museum we were there to serve the people whose donations keep us employed and allow for us to continue to present cutting-edge art to the public. It felt at times that this message was lost on some people, like those at one of the tables near me who talked through the speeches of the director and head of the board of trustees, only quieting to bid on the vacation items, and keeping their programs hidden during the donation period. These people were among few whose motivations seemed to be to be impure. For the most part it was enlightening to see so many people donate money to the production of contemporary art and the support of a growing Salt Lake art community. Because of these people dressed in white, a hundred thousand people each year are able to walk into the museum and experience the intellectually stimulating as well as entertaining and enlightening art that is present at UMOCA.

This event challenged my perceptions of how a museum is run and gave me a lot of insight into how important pure capital is in the art world. Museums like UMOCA cannot function without donations from the “super rich,” and yet most of the art is so far removed from the world of capitalism and a value set that involves personal wealth. Many of the artists I have met choose to live a very modest lifestyle including one who was pulled out of the Houston ghetto by our senior curator. It is an interesting dialectic that is currently gripping the art world at large, and is clear even in some pieces currently at UMOCA. With an interest in the business of art it will be important for me to keep in mind the fact that this gap exists between the patrons and the producers of art, and that the commodification of art limits the capacity to which it can have an effect on its viewers.

UMOCA (May 21-27)

Thursday, June 7, 2012 10:52 pm

My internship is with the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA), and it started informally on May 14. UMOCA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit contemporary art museum that “exhibits groundbreaking work by leading local and international artists as well as promotes community involvement in the arts.” The museum has existed for 81 years, but changed its name from the Utah Art Center only six months ago. In the last two years the organization has acquired an accomplished new director, a world-renowned curator, and won the Utah’s Best Museum award twice. They have also changed their mission statement and developed an innovative approach to gain a larger membership base and gain a respectable position in the Utah arts community.

My position within the organization is a Visitor Services intern. While my title requires me to spend most of my time at the museum at the front desk greeting people, I have been working on projects for the development and curatorial staff. I began by learning the ropes and thus had little to report on for my first week. The following week (May 21-27) I was swamped with preparation for the Annual Gala Fundraiser and did not have time to post, so this one will be for that week. The Gala will be tomorrow, so I will post about that and this week of last-minute preparation on as soon as it calms down.

My first real week of work involved learning how everything functions here and also involved preparing for the Gala. I was a little disappointed at first to learn that I would be working mainly at the front desk as a glorified secretary, but eventually came to enjoy my temporary place within the organization. I quickly learned the position and duties of everyone and became acquainted with them all right away. I also learned how the organization functions day-to-day. We changed exhibitions this week, so I got to see how the number of staff doubles for set-up and that an entire exhibition is designed in just five days. I met a couple renowned artists and befriended Adam Bateman, whose book sculpture was the center piece of the exhibition. The sculpture is two stories high and required over 20 volunteers (me included) to stack over 55 thousand pounds of books. The building of the sculpture is an experience I will never forget. I would pick up books that I remembered reading as a child or studying in high school and watch as their literary significance disappeared and they were turned into thin bricks in a giant wall. I got to experience contemporary art in a new way (the creation of it), which helped me with a couple of ideas I am working with in regards to contemporary art and how the public experiences it.

Throughout my internship and my blog I will be confronting three major themes. The first is what drew me to UMOCA and to the grant. I have believed for a long time that my dream job is to run an art gallery, so I hope to learn how an art business works including their relationship with artists, where money comes in and out, and their relationship with the public. While I hope to run a gallery, the museum provides an important insight on how art can be experienced and shown without profit. The second theme is art historical and is one that I have been concerned with and will continue to be throughout my Wake Forest Career. I have been concerned with how the public sees and understands art from abstraction to more contemporary themes. The Abstract Expressionist movement indirectly led to pop art and then to a contemporary art that required an understanding of previous movements to the point that the larger public was lost to an “in-group” audience of artists and critics. UMOCA is working to end this backward trend by making their exhibitions more accessible and I am trying to find ways to help them do this like through visitors’ surveys. I am also getting a sense of how the public interacts with the works in a museum including which exhibitions are more popular and to what extent they use the resources offered by the museum to help people better understand the pieces.

The final theme is the entrepreneurial one. I am trying to find out how to make the museum better organization. For a non-profit that does not mean more profitable, but instead can be quantified in two ways. The more people that come in to the museum defines how well it is doing, but if those people come out unhappy, it does not matter that they came in. As the front desk person I play a big part in this aspect of the success of the museum, and will be working to find ways to improve the visitor experience. The other way of defining the museum’s success is its national and international clout, which refers to what kind of artists and exhibitions it can bring in. UMOCA is moving up in its reputation, but a lot of this has to do with the money it brings in. The money issue will be explained in my next post about the Gala.

Thanks for reading,

Brooks

PS: (This post was supposed to go out on June 1st, but the computer failed so here it is and I will post about the Gala tomorrow)

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