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Behind-the-Scenes with our Curatorial Assistant

Do you ever wonder what it takes to bring MASS MoCA’s intricately detailed, staggeringly larger-than-life exhibitions to life? The answer is a dedicated team of artists, curators, and fabricators, all working together to coordinate, install, and up-keep the final product on display in the galleries. Much of this behind-the-scenes work rests on the sturdy (and dare we say stylish) shoulders of our talented curatorial assistant, Matthew Lax, who graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in Film and Video Art. On the final day of his year-long tenure with the curatorial department at MASS MoCA, Matthew sheds some light on the secret visual arts magic he’s been doing behind the curtain all this time:

I have worked in the curatorial department at the museum for about a year, organizing the installation of about seven major art exhibitions, from concept development to execution.

The art needs to be keep in pristine condition. That’s me cleaning Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 47. (I bet you didn’t know we do that!)

My second day on the job was spent knee-deep in dirt and Styrofoam for the de-install of Katharina Grosse’s One Floor Up More Highly in Building 5. The following week, I was neck-deep in the planning for Gisele Amantea’s 97 foot long flocked installation, Democracy (pictured above), as part of the exhibition, Oh, Canada. Needless to say, we move quickly here.

Here I am on a lift, getting the wall ready for Wanda Koop’s Look Up, part of Oh, Canada. Good thing I’m not scared of heights…

I also spent a lot of time in the rafters. Here, I’m helping prepare for the opening of more gallery space in a new building.

Ever tried Eryn Foster’s yeast concoction in Oh, Canada? I’ve been keeping our culture fresh since the exhibition opened!

Here I am changing the bulbs in Carlos Garacoia’s No Way Out, on view in ourInvisible Cities exhibition. I spend a significant portion of my workday in the galleries, maintaining artworks and fixing audio/visual equipment.

I’m especially excited about the opening of our upcoming Building 5 exhibition: Xu Bing’s Phoenix (on view December 22 – check it out!). That’s me wearing a hard hat in the gallery during the installation process.

Here I am with my sweet friend Emily Evans, marketing coordinator, at the  Invisible Cities opening. Lee Bul’s sculptures are suspended in the background.

I had heard of MASS MoCA before I started working here, but had never actually been. I had followed a few exhibitions closely online, but was spellbound when I saw the renovated factory in person. I remember Meg Robertson, company manager, and Art McConnell, director of building and grounds, showing me the sprawling campus on my first day. I remember the magic that seemed to emanate from every corner, undeveloped or not, and that feeling almost become a trademark for my time here.

“Do you believe the stuff you’re saying?” a patron once asked me, after I gave her an admittedly condensed rundown of the history of conceptual art. “I believe in MASS MoCA,” I responded. I believe in our ethos and dedication to fostering new art. I believe in our incredible history, the spectacular gallery spaces, our ever-growing roster of talented and creative artists, our amazing staff, and the patrons who continue to visit, year after year.

You might think I’d tire of looking at “the same old stuff” everyday, but sometimes I just have to stop and stare. The magic of this place is never lost on me.

 

Posted December 14, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Interns, Invisible Cities, LeWitt, Museum Education, Oh Canada, Staff, Uncategorized
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So you want to… be an arts marketer.

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!

A native of Washington DC, Katherine Myers has worked as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the past fourteen years. In December, she will return to her alma mater as Director of Donor Relations at Williams College Museum of Art.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

When I was just out of college I whined to my dad, “I just want to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.” Instead of telling me to stop whining (as he should have) he said, “Relax, I’m 60 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”  At 49, I’m still not sure.

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

When I was about seven, I discovered the Rococo rooms at the National Gallery (in Washington). There was a cushy couch, facing the Fragonard painting “The Swing.”  Even into high school I would park myself there and daydream about being in that painting. That made me want to work in a museum and I was so happy when MASS MoCA installed the swings under the overpass!

What is the biggest shift you have witnessed in the museum field?

I think museums have been forced to take themselves less seriously.  People can connect with an institution in so many different ways. We have to embrace that. It’s great to watch museums who are having fun and welcoming everyone across many platforms.

What is your favorite social media platform or current web obsession?

I’m a big fan of podcasts and Stitcher99% Invisible, Radiolab, How to Do Everything, and the Slate Gabfests are my favorites.

If you could work in any other field, what would it be? Why?

If I could not only work in another field but also be gifted with some talent, I’d want to be a product designer or engineer. I get the greatest satisfaction in life when I figure out how to make things work or craft a better solution. I appreciate good user-focused design.

Fill in the blank: The future of the arts depends on finding sustainable ways of funding.

Posted November 20, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Interns, LeWitt, Museum Education
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Revamped Hardware brings MASS MoCA home for the holidays!

It’s never too early to start thinking about holiday shopping. MASS MoCA’s online Hardware store can help. The site now features a much wider selection of products, including past and present exhibition catalogs and new MoCA gear which is not available anywhere else.

Dedicated MASS MoCA fans might see a few familiar faces as employees and interns model apparel. Retail Manager Phyllis Criddle says, “All the photos of MoCA employees have such wonderful life and character- it wouldn’t look nearly as good if we had used professional models!” We couldn’t agree more; Derek and Marissa look great in MASS MoCA and Michael Oatman t-shirts, respectively.

 

Hardware has something for everyone on your list and even a few things for your own holiday wish list. Criddle shares her favorite items below.

Upside Down Grass Kit:  Grow your own version of Natalie Jeremijenko’s iconic Tree Logic.

The Fresh Egg Cookbook: Written by local author, chicken keeper, and Director of Development Jennifer Trainer Thompson.