Kate says, “Robert Mapplethorpe did a show here in the eighties that was really important and raised a lot of censorship issues.” She’s talking to this year’s crop of ICA summer interns and work study students, who of course mostly don’t know about the 1988 Mapplethorpe show, or any of our other historic shows: Andy Warhol, Agnes Martin, Glenn Ligon, Richard Artschwager, etc. This is the official orientation session, but a history lesson isn’t part of the program. It’s just that someone asked why our big printer/copier/scanner is named Mapplethorpe. Now they know.
Darcey, ICA’s Associate Registrar, has put together a manual called A-Z of ICA (really it’s A-T, “answering the door” to “timesheets”) which is full of information like: “When we are not open, it is your job to answer the door intercom when it rings. It is usually a fellow intern/work-study/volunteer/key-forgetting employee who needs to be let in. Other times, it is a VIP who has an appointment.” And, “Copying is a useful life-long skill. If you are not already proficient in copying, approach this internship as a chance to be!” The manual is a model of clarity and comprehensiveness, and as Kate takes us through it, I learn a thing or two I didn’t know.
The new interns are an appealing bunch, and they all seem ready to jump in. Anna-Lara is a history major at Penn who has previously worked at the Penn Museum. Julia took one of the courses ICA co-presents every other year, “Writing Through Literature and Art,” and she has studied Chinese for seven years. Pam knows everything about social media. Elizabeth has set fabric sculptures afloat on the pond at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s Art Camp for children. Annie studies painting at Washington University and plays the oboe. (Sometimes we have men, too, just not right now.)
Also at this orientation is Alex Klein, ICA’s new program curator, who started work this week too. Alex is an artist, writer, and co-founder of the independent publishing imprint Oslo Editions. While working at LACMA in 2007, she made amazing conversations about photography happen in all kinds of places and over all sorts of channels: essays, discussion forums, debates, questionnaires. Eventually the project turned into a website and then a book. Alex is also a dog owner, a Philadelphia native, a vegetarian, a recent lecturer at the Roski School of Fine Arts at USC, and already a calm, informed, discerning presence around the office. She has wonderful ideas for expanding the range of programs we do here, and for activating new parts of the museum as well as the traditional programming spaces.
Kate shows us the library-cum-conference-room with its shelves of catalogues (browsing encouraged during slow times), the new mirror on the back of the director’s office door (“Before events there’s kind of a mad scramble to get mirror time”), and the supply closet. She talks about catalogues, label printing, computer passwords, the mini-kitchen.
ICA has a terrific public face, whether we’re talking about exhibitions like Kate’s current show, One is the loneliest number, or programs like the Ayurveda Workshop that the collaborative Megawords is presenting here next Wednesday. However, it is the efforts of bright, energetic, ambitious student workers—the prompt and polite answering of the door buzzer and the mastery of the powerful Mapplethorpe copier—that makes it all possible.
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