In the summer of 2015, I continued my exploration of nonprofit arts administration by joining the team at the Lansing Art Gallery as an Arts Administration Intern. I worked directly with Executive Director Barb Whitney to learn about organizational structure, budget, public relations, and nonprofit operations. In addition, I had several hands-on opportunities to learn about outreach, marketing, and programming. Below, you can read more about my contributions to the gallery’s Time|Place Competition, Project Pop Up Activities, and 50th Anniversary Celebration.
I started my internship by promoting the gallery’s statewide Time|Place competition. We established a goal of reaching 200 submissions from across the state. First, I created a spreadsheet with contact information for all of the community art centers and arts councils in Michigan. With this information, I drafted an email to these organizations and asked them to share our call for artists with their members. My second task consisted of posting the call on websites and calendars that provide information to artists in Michigan. My third and most exciting task was to share information from the call for proposals on the gallery’s social media. Using Hootsuite, I scheduled several posts about the competition on the gallery’s Facebook and Twitter pages. I developed a communications plan and social media calendar to strategize the key messages and timing of my posts, and I used analytics to improve these documents. As a result of my work, we successfully received well over 200 submissions.
Social Media Calendar
Sense of Place Project Evaluation
After receiving funding from the City of Lansing Sense of Place in the Arts grant program, the gallery created Project Pop Up, a series of impromptu art experiences around downtown Lansing. A requirement of receiving this funding was submitting a final report that included an evaluation of the success and weaknesses of the project. Historically, the gallery evaluates education programs using a “dot survey” where students are encouraged to place a sticker next to statements that they agree with. In order to evaluate project pop up, I drafted relevant questions, and arranged them into a chart using Adobe InDesign. Then, I coordinated the creation of a large poster on foam core with a local printer, allowing us to evaluate public reaction during Pop Up activities. The poster that I designed is shown below.
Project Pop Up Activities
Project Pop Up Activities took place from 12:00 to 1:00 on Wednesdays in downtown Lansing. Each activity featured a unique art form that encouraged exposure or participation from passing pedestrians on their lunch break. Activities included yarn bombing nearby trees, printmaking, puppet making, a scented scavenger hunt, a flash mob dance and more. My role in these activities was to assist the leading artists with the setup, operation, and cleanup of their activity.
50th Anniversary Celebration
Finally, I assisted the gallery in the preparation of their 50th anniversary celebration, an evening reception featuring food and beverage, the Time|Place exhibition, a video tribute to the gallery, and a score of other activities. I designed a number of visual materials to help share the gallery’s history across different mediums. First, I designed a slideshow matching the gallery’s branding and containing several historical photographs for the NEA/NEH 50th Celebration Event at the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts. Secondly, I made a Shutterfly book featuring historical images to be on display during the Lansing Art Gallery’s 50th anniversary celebration. Then, I researched plugins that would allow for the creation of a historical timeline on the gallery’s website. Finally, I created a short video, which ran on loop in a small theater room during the gallery’s 50th anniversary celebration.
50th Anniversary Video
50th Anniversary PowerPoint
What I Learned
Through a combination of independent hands-on projects and instruction from Lansing Art Gallery staff, I learned:
- Proper methods for handling art
- How to build a communication strategy
- How to use Hootsuite to schedule social media updates
- How to read Twitter and Facebook analytics
- The basics for using Adobe InDesign
- How to access arts resource centers across the state
- Proper methods for writing affective grant proposal narratives and budgets
- Reading and understanding operational documents such as leases and insurance for nonprofits
My experience at Lansing Art Gallery not only allowed me to apply arts management skills that I learned in classes but allowed me to develop new skills too. I was able to learn about the challenges and opportunities that executive directors of nonprofit arts organizations face everyday, an experience that cannot be replicated through traditional classroom lecture. Most importantly, this internship allowed for the application of my learning in a professional environment and prepared me for a career in arts administration.