On days the museum is closed but the offices are open, you have to ring the doorbell if you want to get in. Some days it rings all day long, that bell: the mailman, the UPS guy, the FedEx guy, and the many interns who do so much of the heavy lifting here at ICA. Mostly they’re Penn grad students and undergrads, and they do everything from research to filing to helping plan and run events. They work in every department. Some of them have been here for years and know everything! If they all decided not to show up for work tomorrow, I suppose we wouldn’t actually close, but it would be a slow, dull, unproductive day.
Last week we had a lunch to thank them (that probably sounds fancier than it was—Mexican food around the conference room table), and I asked them to tell me something interesting they had done or learned about ICA this summer. Taken together, their answers make a nice snapshot of what goes on here—a kind of mosaic. Here are a few.
Sam (spent the summer resizing, organizing, and in many cases digitizing ICA’s old exhibition images for easy access): It’s interesting to see how many people you have to contact for a single show—artists, lenders, scholars, conservators. One exhibition will generate letters to maybe a hundred people! Also, I can now name every ICA show for the last ten years.
(***Actually, I didn’t write down what these people said word for word. Any errors, confusions, inelegant phrasings, embarrassing exclamation points, or slanderous remarks are entirely my own.)
Sara (going into her senior year at Penn; just elected head of her campus sketch comedy group): I’ve been sorting through the education files to get them ready for the archives, and I found a bunch of material on the controversy about ICA’s Robert Mapplethorpe show back in the eighties. I had no idea ICA was so involved in that! There were all kinds of petitions and statements from Penn in defense of the First Amendment.
Rachel (a graduate student at Penn’s School of Design and a competitive fencer): I’ve been going through the prints ICA offers for sale on the website, doing research about the artists and finding out how much their comparable work sells for. So far I’m at letter G.
Grace (writing her thesis at Penn on the representation of performance art in museums; has been reorganizing the ICA library): Sometimes great old letters fall out of books. And I got to pick the band for the ICA Free For All on September 29!
Lily (a rising senior at Moore College of Art majoring in curatorial studies and getting ready to start a zine): I learned how to make labels for the printer.
(I know Lily did lots of other stuff, too. But actually, if you can master labels on our printer, you can master the universe.)
Charlotte (a grad student at Penn writing her Masters thesis on two portraits of Pocahantas): For Summer Studio with Anthony Campuzano, I helped run the artists’ statement workshop, but it rained and hardly anyone showed up. I spent two hours working with this one guy! But I think we made his statement a little better. Also I spent a week with Anne Tyng [architect and subject of an upcoming ICA exhibition].
One of the interns who wasn’t at lunch was Carina Romano, a young professional photographer who spent the summer working in ICA’s marketing department, and who helped me out a lot with this blog. I don’t know what she’d say she did or learned this summer, but she certainly spruced up the look of Miranda. Thanks, Carina! Thank you Sara, Annika, Lily, Rashana, Sam! Thanks Grace, Rachel, Charlotte, Pericles, Seghen, Kristen! I hope you had fun, made an enduring connection to ICA, and got some good stories to entertain your friends.