Summer Internship at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Georgia

Over summer break, I was given the opportunity to complete an internship at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Georgia, as a part of the Collections department. During my internship, I worked with Ms. Stacey Savatsky, the head of the Collections department, and a team of four other interns. Under her supervision, I, along with my other interns, did research on the artists who MOCA GA exhibits, helped organize the permanent collection, worked at the front desk, and learned how to handle contemporary art. I also helped complete condition reports for the art of Larry Walker, and most importantly, helped deinstall and install exhibits in the public museum itself. I gained many skills during this period, and soon recognized the need to think on your feet in museum curation to prevent catastrophe. One example of this was when the A/C broke in the art vault. There were many pieces which needed to be kept at a cool temperature, so we (the interns) were tasked with setting up many fans to circulate cool air in the vault, in the hour it took the A/C repairman to fix the main problem.

This internship helped me gain much-needed experience in museum work and exhibition design and see the inner workings of museums themselves. I also got to meet and work with several key figures in the Atlanta museum scene, such as Ms. Annette Cone-Skelton, the director of MOCA GA. As I hope to pursue a career in museum curation, the connections I made in the Atlanta art and museum scene and experience I gained at MOCA GA will help me set a manageable and possible career path. While I will always cherish the time I had at MOCA GA, I hope that it will provide a useful stepping stone as I pursue internships at larger museum institutions and apply for Museum Studies graduate programs.

 

Related Art History Learning Outcomes:

  • Take responsibility for direction of education; articulate areas of future development or inquiry).
  • Embrace experiential learning and take responsibility for education (attend events at the Dalton Gallery or other campus events; participate in activities off-campus with artists, galleries, museums, and other venues; connect with the larger art world regionally, nationally, and internationally; articulate paths for future development of individual research).

Exhibition Processes

As one of my classes for spring of 2018, I participated in Exhibition Processes. During this class, my classmates and I worked in Dalton Gallery to learn about designing and installing exhibitions. We worked all but one of the shows for the spring semester, hanging art and cleaning the Dalton Gallery. Most importantly, as our midterm project, we designed and installed the annual Showing/Thinking exhibition. My group of four worked together to design and install an exhibition based on the research of Dr. Yvonne Newsome, one of Agnes Scott College’s Professors of Sociology. We focused on how growing up during the Civil Rights Era led to Dr. Newsome’s focus on intersectionality and inequality in the media. We also created several of the pieces of art in the exhibit, such as a quilt of the southeast United States which was embroidered with information on major Civil Rights events in the South. In the exhibit, we juxtaposed the quilt with one of Dr. Newsome’s lectures on the representation of African Americans in the media, portraits of Dr. Newsome’s inspirations, quotes from famous sociologist Audre Lorde and poet Maya Angelou, and a wardrobe with an “I AM A MAN” poster in it (Dr. Newsome’s clearest memory of the Civil Rights Movement was seeing her father put his poster in their wardrobe).

Not only did this class provide useful training in exhibition design and installation, it also helped me settle on my decision to go into Museum curation as a career. I am now able to focus in on museum work in my studies of Anthropology/Sociology and Art History. I believe that the experiences in my class helped me figure out where I need to focus in my exhibition design and museum training. I also think that my experience in the class was one of the reasons I received the opportunity to work at the Museum of Contemporary Art this summer. Going forward, I hope to use what I learned in this class as I pursue more internships in museums.

Showing/Thinking Exhibit Final Reflection

Credit: “Showing/Thinking Exhibition Installation (4)” by Logan Douglas (author) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA
Credit: “Showing/Thinking Exhibition Installation (5)” by Logan Douglas (author) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA
Credit: “Showing/Thinking Exhibition Installation (6)” by Logan Douglas (author) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA
Credit: “Showing/Thinking Exhibition Installation (7)” by Logan Douglas (author) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA
Credit: “Showing/Thinking Exhibition Installation (8)” by Logan Douglas (author) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

The Showing/Thinking Exhibition was one of the most interesting and challenging projects that I have worked on in a long time. I really enjoyed being able to bring my group’s vision of our exhibit to life; while there are some things that I would change (such as add in some more nods to how gender and class played a role in Dr. Newsome’s life and studies), for the most part I am very pleased about how our exhibit turned out. I really love the wardrobe installation and web, as the web unified our space well and the wardrobe installation looked amazing, As exhibition design and curation in museums is what I want to do when I start my career, I value the chance to experience just a taste of what it might be like. Not only that, but I now have a foundation on which to improve the skills necessary for any future explorations.

My group and I worked together pretty well. I felt that I kind of took over the main logistics of the exhibit, something that I am not sure was good for the whole group. Certainly, there were times where we were not necessarily on the same page, but our group was united in its attempt to get the exhibit completed. While the process sometimes felt slow and the creation of everything that went in our exhibit (especially the quilt) took a while, the finished product was worth it.

Showing/Thinking Exhibit Part Six (March 20-26)

Credit: “Showing/Thinking Exhibition Installation (1)” by Logan Douglas (author) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

This week we installed the Showing/Thinking exhibit. On Tuesday, after completing the quilt, we hung it on the spiral staircase which leads to the second floor. Amandla and Ofelia also finished their portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, both of which turned out great.

 

Maura’s portrait of

Credit: “Showing/Thinking Exhibition Installation (2)” by Logan Douglas (author) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

the Obamas was completed as well. We hung the portraits of Malcolm X and MLK, but left the portrait of the Obamas to be hung on Thursday. We also were able to receive our projector for Dr. Newsome’s presentation, make sure that it still works, and mount it on a platform. We did have a problem with the wardrobe, though. It had not arrived, so Ashley reached out to make sure that we could get it by Thursday. I was also able to speak with Leah and give her all of the resources which needed to be printed and framed, as well as the relative sizes we need. Luckily, Leah had some frames which we borrowed for the exhibit, so we didn’t have to buy any.

On Thursday, I drove to JoAnne’s to pick up

Credit: “Showing/Thinking Exhibition Installation (3)” by Logan Douglas (author) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

the gold yarn needed for the web on our ceiling and to see if they had a good fabric which we could draw the Sankofa symbols on. They did not have any fabric, unfortunately, but we found some leftover scraps downstairs to cover a canvas with. Amandla and I were able to cover the canvas on Thursday, and then finish painting the Sankofa symbols on Sunday. We then installed the Obama’s portrait, stitched the Civil Rights Movement quilt blurbs onto the quilt, hung Dr. Newsome’s framed portrait and that of her grandparents, painted the Maya Angelou and Audre Lorde quotes onto the wall, installed the wardrobe and “I AM A MAN” poster, and started hanging the yarn web on the ceiling. We got about four layers in on the web. It was also decided that instead of a projector, we would display Dr. Newsome’s powerpoint on a TV, as this would mean there was no pedestal blocking the middle of the exhibition room. This was installed the same day.

On Friday our group wrote the wall tags for each of our major pieces and shared them with Leah and Professor Korol so that they could be printed. On Monday, I met with Professor Sanders to choose clothes to be hung in the wardrobe, hooked up the TV and DVD player to play Dr. Newsome’s powerpoint, hung the Sankofa symbol paintings (which already had nails where it would be hung on the wall; all that needed to happen was for the canvases to go on them), and finished hanging an extra three layers of yarn on our web so that it would stand out more. We had a minor panic when the TV power cord went missing, but luckily Anastasia and Leah found it.

It seemed that once we had our materials, everything came together fluidly. Then, it was just a race to get everything done on time. The end result, though, looks great. I hope Dr. Newsome likes it!

Showing/Thinking Exhibit Part Five (March 2-March 18)

During our break, I got a few things done. I’ve formatted the quilt blurbs Alex typed up so that they can be printed and attached to our quilt, finished attaching one half of the border of the states to the background of the quilt, cropped and saved the portrait Dr. Newsome sent of her grandparents to forward to Leah, and emailed Professor Dudley Sanders, who is in charge of the theater department’s costume closet, in order to borrow some clothes which can be hung in the wardrobe Ashley got us. I’ve also emailed Leah to ask about printing Dr. Newsome’s portrait and the portrait of Dr. Newsome’s grandparents, as well as to make sure we can get a projector in order to play Dr. Newsome’s slide show on portrayals of black presidents in media. While there is still plenty to do, this show is starting to come together!

Showing/Thinking Exhibit Part Four (February 27 and March 1)

Credit: “Quilt of the South” by Logan Douglas (author) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

This week in preparing for our Showing/Thinking exhibit, we focused on readying our materials to be installed the week we come back from break. This mostly involved finishing our quilt (see image on the left for completed quilt), which we did; all that needs to be done now is to stitch the shape of the states onto the background. The quilt took a lot longer than expected; however, it looks good, and will be fulfilling to put up. We also helped some other groups install their exhibits, and made a list of all that will need to completed over break, including the Civil Rights Movement blurbs and wall tags. We were able to finish finalizing a few last-minute details, so that everything will be prepared and ready on March 20th. One problem which we did have come up was that the “I AM A MAN” poster that we ordered turned out to be a lot smaller than originally anticipated. I’m worried that it will get lost in the back of the wardrobe, which will be delivered on March 20. I’ve emailed Leah Owenby to see if we can make it larger.

Showing/Thinking Exhibit Part Three (February 20 and 22)

This week, we were able to nearly finish stitching together our state cutouts for our quilt. All that remains is to connect the border of Arkansas and Tennessee. We also chose what quotes we are going to use for the exhibit and where they would go. Perhaps most importantly, Ashley was able to find a wardrobe for our exhibit, which will be delivered on March 19th. Unfortunately, we also came across a problem with our exhibit. Our portrait of Dr. Newsome surrounded by Black Feminists has too small a resolution to be printed, so now our group needs to figure out something new to put on that wall. Some of our initial ideas include a wall of black and white portraits and pictures from a series on black hairstyles by photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere. We’ll see what Dr. Newsome would prefer before making our final decision.

Showing/Thinking Exhibit Part Two (February 13 and 15)

This week our group finished the cutouts of each state for our quilt, picked the fabric for our background, and got the materials that we needed to create Mississippi River. I also created a complete list of everything we need to finish before the exhibit is installed. Finally, Alex Dade and I went to Last Chance thrift store to see if we could find a wardrobe for our exhibit, but sadly, found nothing. I have compiled a list of stores where we could find discounted wardrobes (including Mélange Fine Furniture Consignment and Value Village) and also looked on Amazon and the Ikea website to see if I could find a wardrobe for under 100 dollars (I couldn’t). Our group also figured out how to unify our exhibit, with a web on the ceiling of the exhibit which connects each individual part of the exhibit. Though there is still work to do, our exhibit is still coming along.

Showing/Thinking Exhibit Progress (February 6 and 8)

This week our group finalized the design for our exhibit and made a list of what we needed to buy for it. In doing so, we were able to understand the limitations of our exhibit and what we needed to do to fix these limitations. For example, we noted that our space is not unified, but rather consists of five different parts. We began brainstorming how to best fix this. We also were able to begin sizing and cutting out the shapes of each state for our quilt. We now have a much clearer vision of what it will look like. In this way, we now have created the foundation for much of our exhibit.

Post Presentation Final Individual Reflection

I have always thought of myself as a leader; whenever I work with a group, I am always the one to step up and take charge, as well as to find ways to work together the best. However, after reading the articles on leadership and collaboration that were given in class and seeing the different kinds of collaboration undertaken by artists, I realized that there were many different ways to approach leadership and collaboration, which all depended on the relationship of the group. Through the readings and examples given in class, I was able to start creating a better leadership style and, with my group, figure out the most efficient collaboration style for us to use while creating our public art piece Rooted.

Throughout the duration of the project, it seemed to me that my group moved from collaboration type to collaboration type until we found one where we could most efficiently and effectively get the project done. The whole group almost unconsciously did this. There was never one person who pushed a certain type of collaboration. My group finally settled on a collaboration type resembling the one that I saw modeled in the film on Womanhouse. The mix of divide and conquer along with several group meetings to make sure the whole group had an idea of the big picture worked well for us. In this way, what had initially started as an introduction to different types of art informed my group’s collaboration process.

Furthermore, the types of leadership that I observed when looking at different art pieces and the articles about the types of leadership also helped the whole group to combine their different leadership skills. The emphasis placed on leadership types also led me to reflect on the way that I had done leadership in the past, and determine the areas of leadership that I needed to work on. After reading the articles that we were given, I was able to adapt my own leadership personality to fit better with a large group. I no longer took full control of the project; in contrast, all members of my group got chances to lead, and we helped fill in holes in other’s plans. (For example, if one person forgot something then another member of the group would step in and assume control over that element of the project.) While there were still some voices that were louder than others, this reflection on leadership styles made it so our project was a collaboration.

The emphasis placed on how collaboration led to art was also very helpful for me because it showed me a more concrete example of how my group could go about creating Rooted. The pieces of public art that we looked at in class, such as the Vietnam Memorial and Free Nelson Mandela, also inspired my group’s piece to look the way it did.

This project was the first step in reinventing my own leadership style into something that can be better utilized in the future. In the past, my leadership style has been a little overbearing, but with this project I noticed that the sense of being overbearing lessened, without my impact as a leader lessening as well. Also, the different types of collaboration and leadership that we learned about will also help me work with other groups who have a different relationship than my group did. The ability to adapt to different groups will be very useful in the future.

In conclusion, the different types of collaboration and leadership that we talked about in class definitely were useful in helping me find a way to collaborate the most efficiently. Furthermore, the leadership styles that we learned about also helped me start to reform my leadership style into one that is just as effective but more adaptable to group work. The ways that the class approached collaboration and art directly informed the manner in which my group and I collaborated and created our art piece Rooted.