Thursday, September 28, 2017

Serving UGA Students Through Experiential Learning

Sarah Dotson in the Met galleries

Hi there. My name is Sarah, and I graduated from the University of Georgia last May. During my senior year, I interned at the Georgia Museum of Art in the publications department in order to evaluate whether or not a job in museum publishing would perfect for me – as a lover (and student) of both English and art history, it seemed to be ideal. As it turns out, it was. As the imminent approach of graduation put existential pressure on seniors across the country, I began applying for jobs, internships and other post-grad opportunities that would allow me to move to New York City and begin a career in the arts. 

Much to my excitement and surprise, I landed an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in its publications department as part of the summer MuSe program. To apply, I wrote a few essays, provided both academic and occupational references, and interviewed with the people who would soon become my supervisors. I can say with absolute certainty that I have never felt more prepared or qualified for an interview in my life. It was almost surreal finishing an interview and knowing that I didn’t have to come up with irrelevant anecdotes out of thin air to illustrate relevant skills. I had concrete examples of the projects I had been involved in at the museum, and I knew the work I was doing was actually contributing to the progress of various museum publications. 

I sat with Hillary Brown, the director of communications and my supervisor at the Georgia Museum of Art, before my interview to prepare. It was immediately clear that, by trusting me with image acquisition work, blogging, writing press releases, transcribing interviews and updating the museum’s various calendars, the museum had given me the chance to develop many skills that would appeal to my interviewers. I felt challenged but always supported by Hillary as well as by staff in other departments during my time at the museum. 

My time at the museum taught me a tremendous amount…not just about museum publishing, but also about how a museum functions as a whole, office etiquette and which shoes echo the loudest in quiet galleries (Hint: the shoes you think will echo the loudest absolutely do. Heels, heavy boots and dress shoes.)

It is easy to say I built a strong foundation at the Georgia Museum of Art that will allow me to continue pursuing work in my three different areas of occupational interest: museums, publishing and the arts. I think that is one of the ways in which I feel my internship was most helpful – I left knowing that the skills I developed were transferrable between different fields. While understanding the ins-and-outs of how to acquire image rights to reproduce photographs of an artist’s work may be specific to a job in museum publishing, learning about interdepartmental communication, project management and writing for various audiences are skills that will be helpful throughout my career, wherever it takes me. I am reaping the benefits already as I shift from my summer in publishing at the Met to online art news publishing at a company called Artsy. I’ve approached both endeavors nervously but with tremendous excitement, knowing that my experience at the Georgia Museum of Art prepared me for both. 

It is almost impossible to list all of the many ways in which the year I spent at the Georgia Museum of Art helped me reach my ultimate post-grad goal. Above all, I left my internship there knowing that I had an incredible, supportive, intelligent, artistic community behind me cheering me on as I graduated college, moved across the country and started a new job. I am so thankful for everyone at the museum, for the integral role it plays in the Athens community and for all of the inspiring works it houses. I encourage and recommend students to take advantage of the many opportunities the museum offers during their time at UGA, from internships to Museum Mix and everything in between. 

Sarah Dotson (UGA '17)

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