Taking the internship course at SFU this semester has turned out to be an interesting and overall invaluable work experience for me as I near the end of my undergraduate career. As a Front of House Summer Intern at the Contemporary Art Gallery, I found myself pressed to be flexible and independent in my work, a challenge which I found myself able to adapt to. Even though at this point in time my work at the gallery is yet to be finished, I have confirmed my initial intention of potentially working in an artistic institution and I feel that credit is also due to the way in which my supervisors run the gallery itself.
The gallery is a non-profit, publicly funded institution which has gone through a variety of changes since its inception in 1971, and although it was not one of the galleries which I was previously familiar with, I have still found it to be a very welcoming and interesting space to be working in. The mandate they run themselves under is defined by its inclusionary and committed relationships with working artists both locally and internationally, running accessible programming that all community members can enjoy, keeping an extensive art resource collection including books, exhibition brochures and artworks as well as managing the City of Vancouver’s art collection which is loaned to various public spaces throughout the city. Due to this early establishment in the Vancouver arts community, the gallery has been able to become a primary spot in the gallery circuit in the city, but due to public funding is also able to support higher caliber exhibitions from both local and international artists, for a lower cost to visitors than the Vancouver Art Gallery for example. I feel this is one of the galleries strongest characteristics, which is a mandate that I also agree with myself, making it a pleasure to be able to represent them during my time there. This being said, my main responsibilities at the gallery included, at times, being a front of house attendant, a position which required me to greet gallery visitors and be able to discuss the current artist and exhibition in detail, as well as carry out various tasks such as selling publications, editions and memberships. I say at times because my position was much more dynamic than I originally expected, and I quickly found myself being asked by my supervisors to carry out more research-based tasks in relation to media and promotion as well as upcoming exhibitions. Personally, I really enjoyed the exhibition research and writing, I found that analyzing the upcoming artists and works to be included in the shows was very rewarding and exciting work. Most of the tasks I was given were all quite different in their expectations of me, for example, beyond the exhibition research I was also in charge of promoting the most recent show and related talks to various blog sites and search engines on behalf of the gallery. This experience in particular is a lot more work than I originally had expected, and is definitely a more tedious and wearisome part of the work that has to be done in a gallery setting. However, beyond just that I have been asking for more work periodically as I finish tasks, and through my interest I have been able to immerse myself in a variety of jobs that have made each shift stimulating. I have found through this internship a sense of motivation in my own personal interests in the things I am working on, and have thus been able to really motivate myself without hesitation because I love the subject we are dealing with, making thigs so much easier.
The position also perfectly fit my own personal learning objectives that I had set for myself at the beginning of the term, being such as to learn more about the art gallery workplace and its tasks, and also just pushing myself to do things I wouldn’t normally push myself to do, such as interacting with gallery visitors and initiating gallery research. Personally, I found the biggest challenges occurred when I was working on multiple tasks for different supervisors at once, and I felt I needed to prioritize or to work on both simultaneously, which was also doable, as I found out through the experience. Also, some of my biggest accomplishments throughout the work term was my ability to complete all assignments allotted to me by multiple supervisors. I felt that I was able to complete all tasks asked of me in an efficient time period and also thoroughly edited and arranged properly as to gallery standards. Many of my setbacks were related to myself, usually being in on just the weekends and thus sometimes I would not be able to check in with both supervisors to make sure that everything was up to speed, since one of them was most likely to be off. However, I personally made sure that everything was discussed with both of my supervisors ahead of time, usually via email, to make sure that any conflicts or changes of normal scheduling would be considered and approved.
As far as my academic relationship with my experience to working with the gallery is related, I have found my writing proficiencies to be exceptionally helpful in my research-based component of the time I have spent working, as well as my interpersonal skills and being able to approach my supervisors and co-workers with confidence and the ability to question and analyze my particular task. This internship has helped me see my future career goals in the sense that I may be able to take a paid opportunity similar to the one I have found here through SFU but in a different setting that I am also fond of, and furthermore because of the experience I have had here I feel that I am must more adapt and confident to apply and acquire a potential job in this field. I am also very happy that I was able to meet and make connections with the mentors, supervisors and peers that I have met on this incredible experience, and know that it can only enhance and guide me in my future endeavors.