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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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So you want to… raise money for the arts.

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!

Kathryn Tufano has been the Manager of Foundation & Corporate Giving at MASS MoCA since January 2012.  She has worked in non-profit arts development for over fourteen years.  Prior to her tenure at MASS MoCA, she served as the Executive Director of the Catskill Art Society in Livingston Manor, NY and as Development Director for both Exit Art (sadly, now closed) and The New York Open Center.  In her former life, she had a twenty-plus year career as a professional modern dancer in New York City.

What is the best career advice you ever received? 

You should always have a 3-5 year plan that is constantly revised so you are always following the course that you want to be on.  Sometimes it is easy to get comfortable in a place that is not necessarily challenging you and, a few years later, you find yourself stuck.

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

I started studying dance when I was 3 years old so I always loved the ballet and, in particular, American Ballet Theatre.  When the Mikhail Baryshnikov/Gelsey Kirkland version of the “Nutcracker” aired on television in the 1970s, I was in heaven.  My mom and I swooned over the broadcast every year and when I was old enough, she took me to NYC to see it live.

What is the biggest change/shift you’ve witnessed in the museum field? 

I think that the power of art is so compelling that it needs to be experienced first-hand.  Sometimes I worry that we live in such a technological age that the world  would prefer to have a virtual experience rather than take a chance on a real one.

Fill in the blank: The future of the arts depends on clear communication and building relationships with your constituency. The formula that I have always believed in to sustain any organization is:  Great programming inspires a buzz (which translates into Marketing/PR) which, in turn, motivates people to get behind it and drives the financial support (the Development piece.)

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

I have been involved with the arts my whole life; it is hard to imagine another field! But, if I dig deep, maybe owning and running a family business – a little shop that sells my husband’s hardwood furniture and origami window shades – I guess I should talk to him about that.

Posted January 8, 2013 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Interns, Museum Education, Staff, Uncategorized
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So you want to… be a curator.

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!

Denise Markonish has curated multiple exhibitions at MASS MoCA, including, most recently, Oh Canada, the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside of Canada. With Susan Cross, she co-edited the book Sol LeWitt: 100 Views (Yale University Press) in conjunction with MASS MoCA’s monumental Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective exhibit. Prior to her work at MASS MoCA, Markonish curated at Artspace (New Haven, CT), the Fuller Museum (Brockton, MA), and the Main Line Art Center (Haverford, PA). Markonish earned her Bachelor’s degree at Brandeis University and her Master’s degree at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

I don’t think it was so much advice as just watching how others negotiated the art world. Early on, when I was around 19 years old, I interned at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University; I remember that the director at the time, Carl Belz, once pulled me aside and brought me into the storage vault. He pulled out one painting after the next and asked me what I thought. It took me a moment to realize that he really did want my opinion. This was extremely powerful—to realize that no matter what my age or experience, my opinion and ideas around art mattered. I think this has stayed with me and influences how I operate today.

I was told early on that it doesn’t matter where you are; you can bring great art everywhere. Starting out in the art field, I think everyone thinks you have to go to NYC to make it. I purposely never went there and have had amazing experiences bringing art to different communities.

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

When I was a high school senior at Brockton High School (Brockton, MA), we went on a field trip to the Fuller Art Museum. I remember we met with the curator, and I had no idea that it was actually a job. It was at that moment that I knew what I wanted to do.

I had another key art moment when I was much younger as well, but I don’t think I realized how important it was until decades later… when I was about 12 years old, I went on a family vacation in Toronto and saw two public sculptures: one on the side of the Toronto Sky Dome of photographers leaning out of a box to take pictures of the crowd below and the other in Eaton Centre (a large shopping mall) of Canadian geese flying in the air. Later I would realize that these were both sculptures by Michael Snow, one of the most important living Canadian artists. I figured this out in college after seeing Michael’s film “Wavelength,” probably one of my all time favorites. I am so lucky to have worked with Michael once in Connecticut and then again in MASS MoCA’s Oh, Canada exhibition.

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

I think the biggest shift I have seen in the museum field as of late is the rise of the biennial exhibition. It seems like in the last decade there are twice as many international biennials than before. I have yet to decide if I think this is a good or a bad thing. In theory, getting art out there and taking stock of it is great, but it seems that a lot of the same artists are on this circuit, which makes it seems a little predicable to me. That was one of the main reasons I chose to do the Oh, Canada show, as these were artists that I didn’t feel were getting the same attention on this biennial circuit.

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

I don’t think could actually or would actually ever want to do anything else. I love what I do and feel very lucky to be able to do it!

Fill in the blank: The future of the arts depends on artists. (Our director, Joe Thompson said the same thing!)

Do you have questions for next week’s So you want to…? Tweet them @MASS_MoCA!

Posted December 18, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Canada, Exhibitions, Interns, Museum Education, Oh Canada, Staff, Uncategorized
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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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My Favorite MASS MoCA Moments

Katherine Myers reflects on her 14-year relationship with MASS MoCA as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations.

Besides my 16-year marriage, 14 years is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere. These have been particularly milestone-filled years:  I’ve lost two parents and a lot of eyesight, gained a daughter and a legion of remarkable friends and colleagues, and witnessed more great art than anyone living in a town of less than 15K could possibly dream of.

Given that long history, it’s a challenge to provide a “Top 10” List, but a recent plane trip offered me time for contemplation. Here’s what I came up with, presented in no particular order.

1. Michael Oatman has popped up regularly over the last decade and a half.  I first met him when he was in Unnatural Science (2000) where his incredibly detailed installation schooled me in Vermont’s scandalous history of eugenics. When I was introduced to his collages in Becoming Animal (2005), I was even more taken with him. His suspended Airstream trailer is an absolute marvel and he is a delightful person. Every institution should be so lucky to have an artist like Michael in their “stable.”

2.  I love that MASS MoCA does some events that are pure camp, simultaneously high quality and totally over the top.  On this list: Tragedy (2011), our heavy metal BeeGees cover band who repeatedly told us “We love you North Adams City!” and Corn Mo and the Wau Wau Sisters (2005) which involved a trapeze, a sparkly jumpsuit, Meatloaf covers and Catholic school uniforms.  What a night.

3. Hotel Pool (2005) was produced by MASS MoCA but took place in the pool at the Williams Inn. It was a play and a water ballet with some shocking moments. Incredibly well-crafted and enjoyable.

4. It’s probably no surprise that the shows I like best are the ones with the coolest stuff to see. Crowd pleasers are easiest to sell and, when attendance rises, everyone is happier. On my favorite shows list: Oh, Canada (2012), Unnatural Science (2000), Huang Yong Ping’s retrospective (2006), Uncommon Denominator (2002), Becoming Animal (2005), and Cai Guo Qiang’s exploding cars in Inopportune (2004).

5. Dean & Britta’s 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screentests (2009): The films are completely mesmerizing on their own and Dean & Britta’s score and live performance only served to enhance them.

6. Ann Hamilton’s corpus (2003) taught me the magical power of an art installation.  My father-in-law passed away while Ann’s falling paper was on view.  His death was not unexpected and he had lived a good, long life. When my husband called me that morning with the news, there was no reason to head home but a pause for reflection did seem appropriate. It was before the museum opened; I just started to wander in the galleries and, without thinking, found myself in corpus which was truly the ideal place to reflect on a loss and a life well-lived.

7. Anouk Van Dijk’s Stau (2006) started with dancers emerging from underneath your seat. Then, somehow in the middle, you were standing and all the seats were gone and you were milling about in a pitch black theater when suddenly spots came up illuminating dancers, sometimes right in front of your nose.  The piece ended with dancers and audience writhing against the wall to a deafening percussive soundtrack. Sound crazy? It was, but it was also probably the most viscerally affecting performance I’ve ever experienced.

8. Of All the People in All the World (2007), which involved millions of grains of rice representing various population statistics arrayed in the Hunter Center, brought a 100% lovely group of British actors from Stan’s Café to North Adams for a couple of weeks.  We get to know many wonderful artists but these Brits count among the most delightful. Coupled with the beautiful, clever, moving installation, it was an exceptional experience.

9. Material World (2011) made great use of MASS MoCA’s strengths; the exhibit utilized our remarkable space to great effect from the Wade Kavanaugh and Steven Nguyen’s paper forest to Tobias Putrih’s illuminated fishing line, inspired by our local Hoosac Tunnel.  It was accessible, jaw-dropping, fun, and interesting for all ages.

10. Canadian singer Patrick Watson’s performance this past summer (2012) was nothing short of magical.  At first, we were disappointed that the show was inside on a beautiful summer night. Yet, when we saw what he did with the lights, we were so glad that he had insisted on the darkness that only Club B-10 could provide at 8 PM on an evening in late June.

And one more for good measure…

11. Solid Sound Festival is really non-stop work for our staff. At the first Solid Sound (2010), the only music I actually listened to was the first three songs of the Mavis Staples set which included “The Weight.” Bone-tired late in the day on Saturday, I enjoyed Mavis’s performance from a special rooftop vantage point and received a much-needed spiritual boost (and sitting down for 15 minutes didn’t hurt either).

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What did you like the best over the past 14 years?

Posted December 7, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance, Exhibitions, Film+Live Music, Material World, Music, Oh Canada, Staff, Theater, Tragedy: The All Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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So you want to… build a museum.

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 graduate of Williams College, Joe Thompson received an MA in art history from the University of Pennsylvania and earned an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. Thompson spearheaded the creation of MASS MoCA, from its beginnings in 1987 to its realization in 1999. As Director, his vision of MASS MoCA as an open laboratory for both artists and visitors expanded the institution from its initial mission as a venue for the display of contemporary visual works to a center that encompasses and erases the traditional line between the visual and performing arts.