Hear from our summer intern, Sarah Usandivaras
August 14, 2023
My name is Sarah and I am this year’s summer SHIP intern at the Arthur Ross Gallery. Since starting just over a month ago I have gained a plethora of skills and experience in the art industry and beyond. I started my internship journey strong with the preparation for the opening of the current gallery exhibition Songs for Ritual and Remembrance. I began working on social media, making posts and stories as well as taking photos of the exhibition installation progress. As an avid (maybe too avid) consumer of social media, it was greatly rewarding to be able to take inspiration from content I enjoy, and apply it to the Arthur Ross instagram.
Although my busy school schedule often does not allow for it, I do enjoy frequenting museums in the area. One of my favorites, (aside from the Arthur Ross Gallery of course) is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They boast an impressive collection of artwork from what feels like every area of the world. I am a little ashamed to admit that I never really paid attention to the layout and color of the gallery the artwork was displayed in, and instead focused all my attention on the art displayed. In the first few days on the job I had the pleasure of meeting John and John Junius Taylor, a father-son duo who are Preparators for the gallery. A Preparator aids in the essential “behind the scenes work” that goes into bringing a gallery exhibition to fruition. John Taylor senior has been working in the industry for years, and has been doing work for the gallery since its founding, 40 years ago! Together they painted, constructed, and installed display cases for the pieces. Watching them put the gallery together truly gave me a new sense of appreciation for the work that goes into mounting an exhibition –such as painting the walls, creating ideal lighting, and masterfully handling and arranging the art pieces.
As the exhibition opening drew nearer, I worked closely with staff members to make posters, find vendors, and oversee the installation work. My first week was especially eventful with the arrival of the pieces currently on display in Songs for Ritual and Remembrance, as well as the deinstallation of the previous exhibition At the Source: A Courbet Landscape Rediscovered. This was my first time witnessing a deinstallation process and it was an amazing experience to talk to curators from the PMA and other institutions who arrived to retrieve their loaned art and be able to learn from their experiences. I wasn’t aware of the many technicalities that go into inspecting artwork–called condition reporting–before and after it goes on the wall for viewing. While I might have been asking a few too many “what are you doing now” questions, everyone was so kind and instructive, allowing the installation process to be as informative as it could be.
A few days before Songs for Ritual and Remembrance opened to the public, artists Adebumni Gbadebo and Mary Ann Peters came to put the final touches on their artwork. Mary Ann Peters had to ship her piece all the way from Seattle, and I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with her as she arranged the fabric on her piece. After having done research on the exhibition and the artists whose work is displayed, it was a surreal experience to be able to speak to her about her inspiration and purpose as an artist.
With the exhibition now opened to the public, I have continued to work on the social media for the gallery. Working with Elizabeth McClafferty and Sara Stewart to draft ideas and revise social media posts has taught me a lot about marketing and engagement strategy, how to best showcase the artwork on a digital platform, and how to write catchy captions. While most of my focus has been on digital media, I have been able to assist Emily Zimmerman, Assistant Director and Curator of Songs for Ritual and Remembrance, and Lynn Marsden-Atlass, Director of the Arthur Ross Gallery, in researching artists and helping to plan upcoming events. Last month, I began giving tours of the exhibition as a Student Docent, which has provided me with an opportunity to showcase my research on the exhibition. In addition, I have been working closely with Elizabeth Mclafftery to plan, prepare, and coordinate the exhibition opening. Most recently, I am researching the artist Goya for the upcoming exhibition – Goya: Prints from the Arthur Ross Collection. Overall, working at the Arthur Ross Gallery has been a very rewarding experience. I have enjoyed working on social media and continuing to improve my approach to content creation. Learning about the art world, as someone who wasn’t very familiar with it before, has been incredibly informative not only about artwork but how to establish relationships with individual institutions and plan large-scale events. Once the summer is over, I will return to my student life, however the skills that I have learned over the course of this internship will aid me for many years to come.