Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Art Work

Our art handler, Monica, has been especially busy for the past few weeks, boxing up the 400 or so submissions we must (begrudgingly) return to the 2009 Scholastic Art & Writing Award winners from the New York city region.

It takes about 30 minutes per piece—to check the condition, clean and prepare for poly- and bubble-wrapping, make a custom box, pad the lining, and tape the thing shut. She must then make sure that the address we have on file is correct, and—if it is—print a label and make the trip downstairs to where the UPS truck sits.

The UPS truck gets enough business from our building to merit the daily parking ticket(s) the driver receives from leaving his truck in a No Parking zone.

When all of the entries have been wrapped and shipped, Monica will have spent the equivalent of 9 full days (200 hours) making sure that the artwork we requested is returned safely, and to the right person. She will then move onto the next phase of our season—our traveling exhibition. Hundreds of pieces will be packed into what may eventually turn out to be a semi truck (we are still in the planning stages) and driven to Washington, D.C.

Monica has been working in the arts for several years. She came on board to help with our exhibits at The Brooklyn Museum, Parsons College's Aronson Gallery, and The Prince George Ballroom, but also assists the painter Jacqueline Gaurevitch, and has helped with the installation of works by Claes Oldenburg and David Byrne.

(The David Byrne piece—"Playing the Building"—is, as a matter of fact, where Monica met her boyfriend.

Her boyfriend was working for Todo Mundo, David Byrne's production company.

Their office looks like this, apparently:

Our office does not look this.)

Our office is currently full of boxes.

Monica's workspace is fortified by 7-foot high stacks of them, behind which she expertly wields two different tape guns and a very sharp knife. Her work is at the forefront of everyone's concern, because the submissions we receive are important to us AND her tape guns are very loud.

She works in the arts, and she works on her own art. This is a place a lot of artists hope to be someday, and—because of that—I asked her to describe how she got to where she is.

First, in school, she studied Exhibition Design and worked in the school gallery. She took classes in woodshop and sculpture in addition to her major's coursework. Then, she interned. She says that internships are the way to meet other people who are working in the arts—as framers, packers, installers, etc.—and it's good to have a resume with stellar names on it.

(I saw the interview process for Monica's position, and I can back this up—our Exhibitions Manager, Cole, was more interested in the depth of the applicants' experience than where they went to school. Unless they were from Ohio.)

Eventually, you will get a job.

Once you have one job, you will have a lot of jobs because this side of the arts is as insular as every other side of the arts. "Starving" and/or "isolated" is not the existence you have to expect once you have left art school and entered the professional world—art handlers travel in packs, have secret handshakes, know their kind on sight.

Until you sell something to the Tate, you can make a living in the arts framing, installing, handling, and assisting.

You will get paid to meet and work with other artists. One of these artists may offer to take you out to dinner.

You can touch art without being wrestled to the ground by security.

You will have a never be at a loss for anecdotes involving the intricacies of transporting large inflatable food items.


Michael said...

Thanks! We enjoyed reading about who's been handling our son's art, and how.

- Michael, father of Ian Trupin

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