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My Last Week

(The DC metro)

This week marks my last week of my mentorship. Time has gone by incredibly quick! I can’t believe it’s already been 9 weeks! I feel like many of my goals and duties as a mentee were met though, so I’m really happy about my time with Arlington Public Art. Although 9 weeks seemed really short, it was also a sufficient amount of time to set up all of the events for the 30th anniversary this coming fall though and really feel like I played an important role in the public art team. 

My last day included a meeting with Angela as a sort of exit interview and a meeting about event planning for Dark Star Park to see if we would be able to have a breakfast spread set up on that day. 

(Aliza and Angela discussing our promotional materials)

My exit interview was really inspirational and encouraging from Angela. I was really happy that she took the time to meet with me that day. In this meeting she recommended that I have copies of the brochures that are produced and any sort of printed material made for the events so that I can have an archive of the projects that I worked on. I thought it was a great suggestion and will follow up with the public art team in September to mail them to me. 

Angela then asked my opinion of my experience and asked what kinds of improvements they could make for their next intern. I told her that it was super helpful for me to design their public art tour right away because I became familiar with their collection and could understand the history of the organization. I also told her that being apart of their meetings was really interesting and helpful to me. By coming along to meetings with architects or urban planners I was able to see what Angela or Aliza or Deirdre’s job entailed on a day to day basis and how public art fits into the larger whole. The day that Arlington Public Art hosted professionals from the region who work in public art was one such example of this. It was an experience that allowed me to understand the role of public art today and how professionals of the field are redefining the definitions of public art. It was really eye opening to hear professionals talk about similar experiences of working with governmental organizations and negotiating what temporary public art means to them. I felt like it was the type of conversation that could never take place in the classroom because these conversations ensued from genuine experiences and actual community reactions while designing public art projects. 

(Wendy Ross’ Bud Blossom)

I mentioned to Angela that my only concern during my time with her team was that it was hard to keep track of all of the professionals that were involved within Arlington Public Art. It was almost as if I needed to be caught up on the history of who works well with whom and perhaps why it would be an issue if I contacted somebody who had a negative working relationship with them. I suppose this is part of any new job or mentorship, and it’s not that I ran into this problem at all, but I felt like it was important for me because I was reaching out to so many professionals outside of the public art team and needed to know what was appropriate. Angela heard me out on this part of my feedback and was really receptive to my thoughts on my experience. 

We then talked about my performance, which I think is always valuable to hear as I continue to develop my professional skills. She noted that she was very grateful for my flexibility and my ability to take on extra tasks. I often switched around my schedule so that I could make meetings that were planned that week and still keep within my required weekly hours. I thought this was interesting to hear as an intern. Most internships/mentorships go unpaid, and oftentimes we have to be working another job in order to support ourselves. I was only able to be so flexible with my schedule because I was paid through ArtTable and had savings to use. That was the only reason I could be so flexible. As my exit interview continued Angela did suggest though that I be transparent about my tasks; to check in and state how much I thought that I could get done and what would be too much to take on for that day or week. By doing this it is important to know a boss’ working style and communication preferences: email, phone, or dropping by in person. I thought it was a great suggestion so that I those I am working with know what is realistically possible for one person to do in the amount of time they have during their regular hours. Angela also suggested that if a meeting or conversation was meaningful to me that I should thank them and tell them that I enjoyed it so that they can be aware of what is important to me. By doing this a boss or colleague knows what you need and can better assist you or instruct you. Again, a great suggestion. 

Angela then gave me a pep talk about public art in general and progressing in my career. If I had the opportunity in the future to work in this field she told me that it would take about 5 years max to have a strong amount of projects to put on my resume or to ‘make my mark’ in a community. Due to the amount of time that it takes for contracts to come through, receive funding, or just how quickly projects get cut, it’s hard to get a whole lot of projects under one’s belt in less than 5 years. While in this process though of developing projects Angela suggested to partner with people who have goals similar to mine, but in their own fields such as in housing developments, in schools, or even in youth related organizations. This is important so that one can see how public art fits in with these fields and how it they can mutually support interests. This can lead to projects coming to fruition much sooner. Public art shouldn’t be about saving the world, but instead knowing how it can help a community within organizations and partnerships that are already developing, and as Angela termed it, ‘stable’. By trying to infiltrate an unstable community it harms them more so than supports them. In a stable community one can build on successes and responses. I feel really intrigued by this concept, but also a little puzzled that public art shouldn’t challenge a struggling community. Wouldn’t they be the ones that may need it most of all? Or would a struggling community even be able to appreciate or contribute to the development of a project? It’s a tough call because I don’t have sufficient working knowledge in this area to tell. Angela did mention that public art should be looked as a way to solve problems and bring new ideas to the table. Artists often see this differently than a urban planner or a business owner might. By confronting problems such as race or identity, this might expand that conversation or awareness that others in a community might not be able to see otherwise. This aspect allows public art function as a facilitator. It has the ability to bring various people together. After all, community is based on trust, communication, and involvement and public art fits into this scheme fairly well if we are to think about it as a facilitation device. Angela stressed that if I find that I am not coming up against a struggle in the other departments or communities I become involved with that there would be no point in doing my job. People should be challenged and interested to change their perceptions or working habits for the best possible outcome. 

Lastly, Angela noted the importance of hearing my ‘call’ with a job.This means that even if a temporary job has a great aspect to it but it wasn’t everything I was looking for, that this experience might lead to a better one in the future. I like to think of such opportunities as catering to my philosophy of creating a sustainable and creative life. This doesn’t have to happen right away, but I am always working towards this goal. I definitely see the value of taking small steps towards a larger and greater goal, and often the trying out experiences that happen along the way are what makes me a better and diverse individual. 

I was really grateful for Angela’s advise and was really encouraged after speaking with her about what might lie ahead for me. I am really happy that I had this opportunity and could work with such inspirational women. Living in DC has been fun, and I’m looking forward to my next year in grad school. I know I will be able to apply these encounters in a different realm and continue to evolve my understanding of working with public art. Thanks ArtTable!!

(see ya, office!)(bye Aliza!)

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