MASS MoCA Review
By Jacob Liverman | Wednesday, March 4, 2015
By Jacob Liverman
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
College of Humanities and Fine Arts 2015 Senior Leadership Award recipient, Jacob Liverman, had the opportunity to intern at MASS MoCA during the summer of 2014. Below is his account of his experience.
In its adolescence, MASS MoCA has grown into an energetic and promising institution. Part of this youth is a dissolution of bureaucracy—interns can work closely with directors and managers in many different departments. My internship at the MASS MoCA Box Office allowed me to be the public face of the museum and earned me connections with artists and museum professionals throughout the Northeast and New York, but I was also able to assist in Marketing, Curatorial, Education, and Development.
For Marketing I wrote a blog post promoting a poorly-selling concert, and reaching out to communities who listen to the kind of music that would be performed. With the Curatorial department, I was able to assemble reviews and articles about artists for an upcoming exhibition so our curators would be able to access relevant information more easily. I was tour trained by the Education department, and would regularly give virtual tours of the museum via the museum guide map. As part of the Box Office, I would also talk with guests and further their education as they passed through the lobby and wanted to share their thoughts. Unfortunately, because MASS MoCA is set within the hard-to-reach Berkshires, attendance alone is not enough to keep the museum solvent. The results of this are extensive membership and donation appeals. Each summer features a girl scout cookie-esque membership competition, the winner receiving a prize. I managed to edge out a victory and enjoyed the much-needed massage gift card that was given as a reward.
Because of my position at the helm of MoCA, I was often a resource for visiting artists. Izhar Patkin, who has occupied the largest exhibition space, became a friend of mine and we remain in contact today. I also got to know Darren Waterston, who spent 10 months in-residency at MASS MoCA creating an interpretation of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room (1877) that will soon join the original at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery. It quickly became one of my duties to get their visiting guests, critics, or journalists to their gallery.
Sam Beam, of Iron & Wine, was the only other soul in the lobby at 8:30am. As he stood around waiting for the museum to open, and I working to open up the Box Office, we struck up a great conversation. He is a wonderfully humble and interested person who refused to take himself too seriously—even donning a croqueted monster-bunny ears hat with me.
Part of what makes MASS MoCA so exciting is it’s transparency; artists and faculty aren’t hidden behind the scenes. This transparency is part of the museum’s conception as an experimental space and is its greatest strength. The massive buildings have been repurposed and now allow for a freedom of interaction that remind one more of a basilica than of its factory origins. This freedom exists between the artists and the space, the space and the visitors, and ultimately, between the visitors and the artists. In a sense, just as the refurbished factory space reveals the structure of the building, MoCA reveals the structure of a museum. While much has changed since they opened the doors 15 years ago, MoCA still remains unabashedly and excitingly experimental.