What’s Next?

“So… what do you want to do with that?”

Another quizzical face staring back at me, wondering what in the world I am doing with my (almost-finished) Bachelors of Arts. I have received this question from countless people upon my saying that yes, I am an art history major, and yes, I know artistic careers are hard to come by. A cashier at Food Lion told me it was a risky choice, an older gentleman at an art exhibition I co-curated advised I go into business instead, my dad strongly hinted at engineering (I have not taken a math class in over four years).

Sometimes, I reply with a joke, “Oh you know, marry rich and hope for the best!”, other times I mention museum education or curation, trying to prove that yes indeed, I know a sector of the arts industry. However, after this summer, I feel much more able to articulate just what I do want to do with my art history degree.

Interning at the Getty Center has given me an invaluable opportunity to see behind-the-scenes into both a museum and an arts non-profit. I have been able to talk to curators, educators, event planners, audio-visual technicians, public programmers, and a fashion historian.

One of the first eye-opening moments was after talking to the wonderful head of the events department, who recommended I read through the job descriptions found on the Getty’s internal website. I took some time that afternoon and read through pages and pages of job descriptions for jobs I had not even known existed. For example, one of my favorite parts of curating a show this past spring at the Muscarelle Museum was writing labels for the pieces, to allow the audience to see why we chose certain pieces and how they connected to the theme. I had no idea that was part of a specific job, let alone that it’s an Interpretive Content Specialist! Reading through those pages, I realized there were many more jobs than I had realized that were necessary to make a museum run smoothly.

I have also been paying attention to which parts of my internship are the most fulfilling. A short list:

  • running around with my clipboard and radio, visibly behind-the-scenes, appearing to be someone who knows what they’re doing
  • seeing kids’ faces light up at the games area (with giant jenga) that I was in charge of setting up
  • directing visitors around the site
  • interacting with & facilitating communication between different teams, such as Set-Up Services or AV
  • becoming friends with people in different departments
  • feeling part of the team

Talking to all of my coworkers about their paths to the Getty is also encouraging. They each come from varied backgrounds: one majored in art history and worked in advertising, some came from higher education research or events, one is an actor, another did events planning in Las Vegas. Each of their stories inform how they approach events and which types of events they like best, but none of them are hindered by not growing up dreaming of “being an events specialist.” I’ve also seen how they don’t limit themselves to one interest. Just because their day job is events does not mean they cannot also pursue international research or take classes in something interesting or make time for art.

So, what’s next for me? Somewhere creative, where I can problem-solve on the job, where I am interacting with people, facilitating teamwork, and bridging the gap between academic art/fashion history and boots-on-the-ground people’s experiences.

I guess what I’ve learned, or am learning, is that life has been chock-full of interesting things for the last twenty-one years, and it would be ridiculous to assume that it will stop.

So, to my fellow seniors embarking on our last year of the familiar experience of undergrad (aka I’m talking to myself): Life is long, and we don’t need to settle into our dream career at once, or even have only one dream career. Take the adventure this moment holds and appreciate it. Take steps in your every day life to make it more like your “dream” life. Let your dream change. Write down your ideas for a day when you have none. And remember, most of all, your worth is not tied to your work. Ever.

Comments

  1. I feel as though most of that all-too-common criticism of art/humanities majors comes from folks who don’t yet recognize how important and necessary creativity is becoming in the modern era. Maybe that transition comes from art being increasingly commodified (ex.: advertisements and such), but I think it opens the doors to a lot of positivity including recognizing how important artistic expression is in combating the dreariness or frustration of everyday life. That in itself makes artists and creatives some of the most necessary people in history–they’re usually on the front lines of human progress because of it. All of that is to say there is more worth valuing than a big paycheck, which seems to be lost on those folks who judge an artist’s career path. I hope the remainder of your internship is enjoyable, & keep making art regardless of who questions it!

  2. This is beautiful :). What would you say was your favorite part of the summer? How do you feel art parallels with the mentality you’ve generated here?

  3. Thank you!! I think my favorite part was forming real relationships with the rest of the events team, and growing to feel like a truly useful team member. I also loved ducking under the “no public access” sign to be backstage during our free concerts!

  4. I completely agree! Thanks for dropping this note (:

  5. Karen Poteet says:

    So well written! You expressed yourself beautifully. Speaking from the other side of career and raising a family, you’ve gained a world of wisdom in a very short time. And knowing your dad quite well, I assure you he was trying to make you laugh when he suggested engineering! Love you!

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