My name is Qilin Zhao, an anthropology major and studio art minor who has just graduated. I am doing summer internship with Saratoga Arts, in both their exhibition and education department. Passionate about museum education and community engagement, I learned about the unlimited connections people make through arts by internships with Saratoga Arts.
Saratoga Arts is a non-profit organization aims to make art accessible to everyone. The space of Saratoga Arts has multiple uses – galleries, classrooms, theatre…It’s a social space where people get together for their passion on art. It’s a place for people of different ages. There are classrooms for kids’ summer camp and studios for adult learners. It’s a place for people who connect with arts in different ways. You see kids from theatre camp acting on the stage. You see amateur art lover submitting creations they made during their free time. You also see arts from professional artists who paved their career path through the help of the organization.
In this blog, I will mainly talk about my role as an exhibition intern.
My working place is the front desk. I conduct various administrative work such as greeting people, answering phone calls, selling art works and organizing materials.
Art is about people. This is the most important lesson I learned through working with the exhibition department. Saratoga Arts reaches out people in a very warm and personal way. I got the chance to meet a wide range of people while staffing at the front desk – people with burning questions, people who are mad, tourists who get lost, seniors who want information but don’t know how to get them online (and also doggy, as shown in this pictureJ… The experience trained me to be able to open my heart and approach everyone in a way that could make them comfortable. I also need to pay close attention to people’s need. For instance, if I see someone come in the gallery who looks a little bit puzzled. I may approach them and do a brief introduction on the show for them. If I see someone who look like they prefer quietly looking at the works on their own, then I will just leave the space for them. There are rules, but rules also need to be flexible. For instance, buyers of the art works are encouraged to bring the work once the exhibition is closed. But if they are tourists who will just been here for couple of days, then they are allowed to take them back home immediately.
While at the same time, I was always assigned some other small projects.
Preparing letters and folding envelops doesn’t sound like fun for me at the beginning, but soon I realized the importance of this later on. The letters are carefully categorized into different parts – those memberships who has just expired and those memberships who has expired for years. For these different situations, the letters are carefully crafted in totally different ways, with one focusing more on how much the organization achieved with their support and the other expresses deep gratitude and the importance of their help, hoping them could join again. I asked Emma, my supervisor, that why they have to send letters instead of simply send out group email. She said that letters feel more intimate and personal, while electronic email won’t have the same effects. Indeed, Saratoga Arts engage with a wide range of people, and reach out each of the person in a personal way. Everyone counts.
This brings to another point about how a small non-profit organization runs. I soon realize that not just me, as an intern, have to deal with lots of general administrative work. Even the director of the organization has to deal with small things like folding envelops. Each department only have one person in charge, which means people don’t normally have assistant. The staffs need to be multifunctional – from coming up big ideas such as how to secure funding for artists, how to reach out to more people, to small things like organizing materials and mailing letters. I feel very warm to work with a group of people like that. People are approachable and down to ground. People support each other and work collaboratively with each other for both small things and big things.