[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts in which interns and students reflect on their ICA experience.]
I was excited and a bit nervous about the prospect of interviewing some of ICA’s crew members. I was initially surprised to learn that many of the museum’s staff are artists, or have creative backgrounds. Ready for an adventure and wanting to get the most out of my internship at ICA this summer, I made my way to the First Floor Space to meet some of the team of preparators and learn more about what they do.
My supervisor Becky Huff Hunter, ICA’s Communications Associate, introduced me to some of the familiar faces working around the office and down in the galleries. There’s Paul Swenbeck— Chief Preparator—and crew members Jacob Lunderby and Patrick Maguire.
I hung out with Jacob and Patrick in the galleries just observing for a little while and watched them drill out nails from a rectangular sheet of drywall that they removed to reveal a long, narrow passageway. It was full of cardboard boxes, wooden boards, metal ladders, and what seemed to be every item you can imagine being in a giant toolbox. Later, Jacob had me help transport a very long ladder up the elevator to the second floor. Not such an easy task! As we swiftly moved around to different parts of the exhibitions, Jacob told me a little more about himself. “I teach part time at Drexel and at Philadelphia Community College,” he explained. “We [preparators] sometimes do other installations or construction jobs too.”
We next headed to the back of the Second Floor Space where the guys swiveled around a very large white wall, revealing another hidden room equipped with gleaming saws, long file cabinets, and a large wooden table that centered the room: ICA’s workshop. There was so much to look at—paintings, drawings, and small objects from previous installations, alongside graffiti depicting distorted faces and the names of “groups” that were a part of the team long ago. The room looked like an artist’s exotic wooden box of random items of inspiration. My eyes scanned the room, object to object, until I was too dizzy to keep observing.
In the “shop” we talked more about the crew members’ work at ICA. “Well, you get to do a lot of fun stuff, meet new people and make people’s dreams come true,” says Patrick. “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing,” replied Jacob. “Somebody has a vision for something and we make it happen.” As an example, Jacob mentions Pope.L’s installation Claim, 2014, affectionately known as “the baloney wall.” Patrick continues, “I had to map out a grid to the artist’s measurements. This took two days sitting with a level and going up and down on the genie making these perfect ten by ten inch squares, then painting each one white or peach… What’s cool about ICA is that it’s not a collecting museum, so these things that we make here are just for memories.”
We also talked about some of the things Jacob and Patrick do outside of ICA, as painters. “We have pretty rigorous studio practices and dedicate a lot of time to making our own art,” said Patrick. “A good thing about being a part- time worker is that you get more time to make your own artwork. Being a preparator also keeps it interesting because you’re not going to the same place doing the same thing every day,” adds Jacob. I have always wanted to show my artwork, so I found it interesting that both Patrick and Jacob have exhibited theirs quite recently: Jacob at Pentimenti Gallery in Old City; Patrick at Space 1026 in Chinatown.
These few hours I spent today only touched the surface of what makes up this friendly and talented team. I am eager to find out more about the people here at the museum and the secrets that lurk deep within its walls.