Between choir practice and classes, planning events for the Art Association and researching Pop Art for her senior thesis, Caitlin Clay journeys downtown a few days each week for her internship at the renowned Nasher Sculpture Center. As one of the only museums dedicated solely to sculpture, the Nasher is known internationally for its phenomenal private collection, which features works from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Richard Serra and Willem de Kooning.
Since the beginning of September, the senior art history major has had the opportunity to work in multiple departments at the museum.
“My official position is the external affairs intern, but I also somewhat double as the development intern,” Clay said.
Employed in both departments, Clay has worked on a wide variety of projects, focusing mostly on public relations for the external affairs position and on the museum’s membership program in her role as development intern. Regarding public relations, Clay reads through newspapers, magazines, journals and various social media outlets looking for articles or writing about the Nasher to understand how the museum is portrayed in the media. With the wide use of new media platforms in our culture, Clay has also used social media to communicate about artwork at the Nasher.
“I’ve created Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts,” Clay said. “They haven’t been posted yet, but they’re about the private collection. So I took photographs of the private collection pieces that are on display now and then I wrote short posts about each one.”
By writing these media posts, Clay helps to expand the image of the Nasher and to communicate information about images of the museum’s artwork in a manner which fits how many people receive information today, especially younger generations. Although these projects are not what one might initially imagine when thinking of an internship at an art museum, Clay is learning more about how she can use her education and passion in the world.
“The PR side gave me new insight as to how I can put my art history background to a different use,” Clay said. “So I can still write about art pieces, I can still photograph art pieces and sort of interact with them on an individual basis, and it’s nice to be able to communicate with other people why they should be excited about an art piece or why it’s important,” Clay said.
Doing public relations and membership work for the art museum has helped her realize the relationship between business and art. With a business concentration, Clay already recognized the importance of business to the art world, but her experience at the Nasher has brought that understanding into actuality.
“You always have to remember the business part of art when taking on an art-related role,” Clay said. “And depending on your job, it can be more art-related or more business-related, but they always go hand in hand.”
Though it is furnished with aw-inspiring art rather than bland cubicles, the museum requires all the elements of any other business in order to successfully function, Clay stated.
“There’s so many different departments that do different things and there’s teeny tiny details that might take you hours to do that people may only notice for a few seconds or may not notice at all,” Clay said.
From finances to hosting wedding receptions to curating the exhibitions and galleries, many people work to make visiting the Nasher possible.
“I stuff a lot of envelopes,” Clay laughed, describing hand-addressed letters for the museum’s elite members.
She explained that the integration of these small details, such as hand-addressed envelopes, make the museum as we know it possible, including its events like the Nasher Prize reception.
“I worked the Nasher Prize, which was super awesome, because it — it is, now that they’ve instituted it — the first art prize dedicated to sculpture,” Clay said.
Clay worked with the photographer at the reception to gather the information of people who were photographed and had the chance to become part of the historic night. Although she has learned about the importance of business to the art world, Clay ultimately hopes to work more closely with the art than the business side of it all, possibly as a curator or art history professor. She plans to continue studying art history at the graduate level through a master’s or possibly doctorate degree. Whatever her path, Clay’s passion is for communicating about art.
“I love talking about art and I want to communicate to people how important art is and why it has value, not just to society as a whole, but why it can apply to individuals as well.”