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So you want to…be a managing director.

Have resumes and cover letters become your (least) favorite new hobby? Times are tough out there for recent graduates and young professionals – competition is fierce and you can’t be an intern forever.  In our new blog series, So you want to…, our museum staff offers advice and inspiration for pursuing an arts career. Don’t worry– all those applications will eventually turn into an interview!

Susan E. Killam has served as MASS MoCA’s Managing Director for the Performing Arts and Film since November 2004. She coordinates over 65 events per year including three music festivals (Wilco’s Solid Sound, Bang on a Can, and FreshGrass Bluegrass Festival) and multiple performing arts spaces including the Hunter Center (a 10,000 square foot black box), Club B-10, and the outdoor Courtyard B. Before coming to MASS MoCA, she worked with the  entertainment law firm Garcia, Francis & Associates, the Philadelphia and Boston Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, the HIV/AIDS Law Consortium (where she was the founding director), and the Family Planning Council of Western Massachusetts. Sue holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Film & Broadcasting from Boston University and a Juris Doctor degree from Temple University in Philadelphia.  She is a member of the Bar in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Sue Killam and Laurie Anderson--one of Sue's favorite artists

(Photo of Sue and Laurie Anderson–one of Sue’s favorite artists)

What is the best career advice you ever received? 

Don’t be afraid to raise your hand.  I was first told this back in elementary school, but was told it again at my first real job.   It’s great advice.  It’s better to ask questions if you don’t know the answer or how to do something asked of you.  It’s better to spark dialogue by sharing reactions and thoughts. Raising your hand means you’re willing to chip in, help out, and when it matters, be counted.

How would you encourage recent graduates to make the most of internship experiences?

I collected internships when I was younger.  I couldn’t get enough hands on experience.  I always found that the key was to keep your eyes and ears open to what’s happening around you as you will often learn more by observing than simply completing tasks.  Never lose sight of the bigger picture.

What was a formative arts experience for you as a young person? 

Because I grew up in the Berkshires with parents who were involved in the arts, there wasn’t a cultural organization that I didn’t visit.  Summers were spent listening to the Boston Symphony while stargazing, ushering for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, trips through the Clark, and gallery guarding for the Williams College Museum of Art.

My favorite activity was going to summer concerts at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center; while some of my friends aspired for autographs or glimpses of the band, I could be found at the edge of the stage, fascinated as the crew packed up gear, took down sets, coiled cables, and brought the stage back for the next day. I wanted to be a part of that.

What is one of your current social media or web obsessions? 

Kickstarter makes donating money accessible, fun, and interesting. I love to see the range of ideas out there, watch the short pithy video pitches, and track the success (and failure) of campaigns.

Fill in the blank: The future of the arts depends on an engaged and intrepid audience.

Posted January 22, 2013 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Interns, Museum Education, Staff
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