What It's Like Working At An Art Museum
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What It's Like Working At An Art Museum

Hint: It's one of the best things that have happened to me in college thus far.

What It's Like Working At An Art Museum
By Gillian Olortegui

Since starting school at the University of South Florida (and therefore beginning a new era in my life) in August of 2018, I've been determined to uncover all of the cool places that my new home has to offer. Halfway through my first semester, one of my classes took a field trip to the accredited art museum on campus (fun fact: my university has an accredited art museum on campus). This is the moment when I fell in love with this building on campus, because it felt like a whole other planet amongst the usual busyness of college that surrounds it.

A few months later, as I was scrolling through my school's student employment portal, I stumbled upon a position to work as a student security guard for this very museum. It was almost too good to be true, to get paid while literally being able to enjoy a museum, but after submitting my cover letter and coming in for the interview, I was among the two out of 74 applicants to get the position.

I've been working at USF's Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) for a little over a month now, and I have to say that working a job has never been so amazing.

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To start, it's incredibly peaceful.

As soon as you enter the museum, you're met with space, openness, and clarity. It's the perfect environment to clear your mind from any troubles and ills you may be struggling with. I can tell you right now that my day-to-day schedule consists of one thing booked after the other without so much as a time to breathe, but when I'm at the museum I completely forget about anything and everything stressful. This is one of the few places where I allow myself to exist in the moment.

Also, since the museum does not bring in a ton of foot-traffic on a typical day, I have a good amount of time to relax or do homework, and this is the best environment to do so. There are hardly any distractions present, meaning time spent on doing homework is set on peak efficiency!

You work with cool co-workers.

I have three other co-workers who are also security guards, and they're all the most interesting and hilarious people to work with! One with dark green hair, one who does improv, and one who has a family, I think we make a great team. We collectively call us the "CAM fam," and if that isn't adorable I don't know what is.

You work for an even cooler boss.

He's a gigging singer-songwriter who can play the guitar and mandolin (and most likely loads of other stringed instruments), a voice actor voicing famous characters and featured in famous commercials, a cosplayer at events like the Renaissance Festival, AND my boss?!? It can't get better than that, really.

You always learn something new about the current exhibition.

I work a lot during the times that curator tours take place, when I have to follow closely behind to make sure no one touches the art. During all of these tours, the curator's speech slightly changes, and I am continuously introduced to yet another way to think about the art work at hand, gaining new insights after each tour. I feel like at this point I could give a tour myself!

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We're always hosting super unique events.

Two weeks ago we hosted a literal cloud-tasting event, in which an artist-scientist collected cloud liquids from different atmospheres (above Mexico, Seattle, California, and Finland), and participants filled a shot glass with clouds of their choosing to taste the effects of environmental pollution (news flash: you could). Last week was an event run by electronic music and music composition majors, performing music based on and inspired by the current artwork in the museum (as well as performing experimental, soundscape music). This week we will be hosting a "documentary on the lawn" in the grass right outside of the museum, showing the documentary "Into the Inferno," regarding the relationship between man and volcano. There's never a dull moment in the life of an art museum.

You get a sneak-peek at the new collection.

In between exhibitions, the museum is closed to the public, but those working in the museum are never busier! I help out with any moving of various props and furniture, as well as any simple task I am asked to do on the spot. It requires all hands on deck to get one collection down and another one up, especially this next one that will feature our MFA graduates' thesis projects (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler, this was already known)! I'm just excited to get first dips at experiencing this new art before anyone else.

You get VIP access to the previous collections in the storage room.

On the first day coming into work, I was given a brief "museum orientation" where I was shown every single room in the building, from the kitchen, to the offices, to lastly the ginormous hidden storage room that you need special code access to get into. Within this magical room there was rows upon rows of artwork that once hung in the main galleries, but have since retired in this room to be safely stored indefinitely. Since CAM is accredited, it has the power to own much of the artwork that comes through its doors, and this room is the safe haven for it all.

You get to interact with all types of people from all over the world.

One of the coolest things I've noticed about working at this museum is that since we have the accreditation distinction, we are on the online radar for many people, and I mean many people. Of course we get visitors from USF students and staff, field trips from local schools in the area, and occasional students and people from across the bay: St. Pete and USFSP. But we have also gotten visitors from Wyoming, New York, Italy, Poland, the U.K, even Australia, just to name a few recent guests. These people are really coming from 10,000 miles away to see art on a Florida college campus, which just absolutely blows my mind. It's super interesting getting to briefly talk with them while I'm greeting them at the front desk, because our lives are just so insanely different, and we each think that the other has such an interesting life. I'm amazed by the intensity of a New York city dweller, while they're amazed at the warmth and relaxation of Tampa City.

It's just as interesting to speak with past USF alumni, as they view the school in a completely different light than I do, and we get to bond over the amazement that is how much this school has changed over the years.

This past month has flown by, and with this being my first "real" job, I feel like I've learned so much in arguably the coolest place to work while in college. I hope this makes anyone more inclined to visit their local museum and appreciate those who work at them, because we do a lot in order to showcase conceptual art to the world!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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