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Thursday, August 18, 2016

What is it like to be an exhibition intern at The Bascom?

by Teisha Holloway, BFA candidate, Art, Clemson University

18 August, 2016

To answer that I will first explain what The Bascom is and where it is located. The Bascom is a non profit Art Center located in Highlands, North Carolina about an hour drive from the Clemson University campus.  They hold regular exhibitions, artist talks, art educational classes, and workshops. The mission of The Bascom is to provide access and education to the arts to the surrounding community. Their stated mission is: 

Believing that creative expression transforms our lives, The Bascom is committed to providing life enriching experiences through diverse exhibitions; comprehensive arts education and public programs; support for regional artists; and strategic partnerships facilitating cultural and economic development in the Highlands-Cashiers community.”

            Highlands, North Carolina is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Nantahala National Forest. The Bascom is surrounded by scenic mountain views, waterfalls, and wildlife. Some of these are located within only a mile of the facility!

            Being an exhibition intern at The Bascom is a high performance job as you are responsible for loan agreements, budgets, condition reports regarding artwork arriving and departing The Bascom, preparing didactic materials such as wall text and identification labels, layout and design of exhibitions, and installing and de-installing exhibitions. To do all of this I worked directly under the supervision of the Exhibition Coordinator, Hayden Phelps. Hayden describes the exhibition intern position by saying, 

The Exhibition Internship provides opportunities for students of Art History, Fine Arts, Museum Studies, Curatorial Studies and related fields to gain meaningful professional experience in curatorial and museum work. This program helps improve the longer-term career prospects of students in these fields, while helping to develop the skills of future curators and museum workers in the region, encouraging production of writing and scholarship, and enhancing the experience of visitors to The Bascom’s exhibitions. Exhibitions at The Bascom cover a wide diversity of both regional and international artists.”

            We had six exhibitions come into The Bascom this summer while I was interning, one of which was a show about the Cherokee and included many precious artifacts and work that has never left the reservation before. This was particularly challenging and exciting as I got to travel to Asheville and meet many artists and hold artifacts that were around 2,000+ years old! I was responsible to inspect and document on the condition of artifacts and art that came into The Bascom as well as its outgoing condition. I worked closely with the Exhibition Coordinator, Hayden, to design layouts for these exhibitions.

So what are the most important things I have learned during my internship at The Bascom?

First, professionalism as an artist: Dealing with artists on a regular basis I have learned that it is easy to become frustrated with a lack of professionalism. Having a well designed website that is easy to navigate is one thing that can make you stand out from the crowd, having dimensions of your work is also a huge plus. Proper phone/email etiquette and communication is important to establishing a relationship with the gallery/museum/curator who wishes to show your work.

            Second, how much good exhibition design can do for your work, and how easily good design can be achieved on a budget. Something as simple as painting and arranging the pedestals before placing your work on them can drastically improve the appearance of your work.

Lighting can also make a dramatic difference. I learned there are different ways to light all kinds of work; spotlight, broadlight, backlight, light from within. It is also important to consider environment, environment that surrounds the work and creating a suitable design for the piece.

You might think that you wouldn’t need math as an MFA/BFA major. You would be wrong. There is a whole math equation just for hanging wall art so they are all level and at the right height for the viewer. I got to layout and install my own exhibition while I was at The Bascom as well as assist in the layout and installation with my supervisor, Hayden. One of the fun parts of the job was traveling to collect all of the artwork for these exhibitions and to speak with artists, collectors, and museum staff. I was exposed to nearby museums that I didn’t even know existed.

What was the best part of my internship at The Bascom?

The people. I was surrounded by a community of people who cared, not only about art, but about the success of The Bascom. They believed in making a difference for the artists, children, and general surrounding population. They are all passionate, friendly, and committed to the mission of The Bascom and are all hardworking individuals. Being immersed in this type of atmosphere helped to give me the drive to maintain the same type of work ethic. The people who work here are truly unique and make The Bascom a special place, without the dedication of the staff it would not be so successful. Each and every one had a hand in enriching my experience there and I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity because I have gained so much knowledge, experience, and memories that will last a lifetime.

The most important thing I gained while working at The Bascom was self confidence. When I went to interview for the position I thought I was not qualified enough for the position, or that perhaps there were better candidates, or maybe my art history knowledge wouldn’t be up to the same standards as everyone else. I almost didn’t apply for the position for these reasons. I went back and forth in my head wondering if it was a good idea. Finally I realized that the worst thing that could happen is I would be told no, so I decided to go for it. On my first day I remember feeling like at any minute my supervisor would think I was completely inadequate for the position and would get rid of me. 

After the first week or so I started to realize that not only was he not going to get rid of me but he was constantly telling me what a good job I was doing, and how happy he was to have me there helping. It wasn’t long before I was given independent responsibilities like installing a show on my own. I felt that my supervisor would come back and tell me I did everything wrong and when instead he reassured me I was doing a good job I started to realize that I was growing as a professional and as a person. I feel confident now that when I go to apply for a job in the art world I will know what to expect and what I am capable of. I highly recommend this experience to everyone.
            The Bascom has many internship experiences as well as artist residencies and art classes. They have state of the art exhibition facilities, a wonderful place to eat lunch, and a gorgeous campus. I recommend a visit, but more so, participation in one of their fabulous programs or opportunities. I am sure that any individual will enjoy the experience as I have. I would be happy to speak with any and everyone who is interested in applying for any type of position or class at this art center, or even if you just would like a to go for a tour.

323 Franklin Road
Highlands, NC 28741 

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