Kaira Mediratta ’21

The Drawing Center, New York, NY

I spent this past summer working at The Drawing Center (TDC) in Manhattan. Located in SoHo, TDC is a museum and a non-profit exhibition space that focuses on the exhibition of drawings, both historical and contemporary. TDC occupies a unique space in the New York arts scene, because although we are small in size and may not have the same name-recognition as institutions such as the Met or MoMA, TDC holds a prominent position as the sole institution to explore the medium of drawing as primary, dynamic and relevant to contemporary culture. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to intern at such a special place!

Throughout my experience working at TDC, I had an incredible time getting to know the staff and the way that the Curatorial Department at the museum operates. As a Curatorial Intern, I worked with Claire Gilman, Chief Curator; Izzy Kapur, Curatorial Assistant; and Laura Hoptman ’83, Executive Director.

One of my first projects was writing a post for our blog, The Bottom Line. I immediately knew this was something I was interested in, since writing about art is something I already do all the time at Williams as an editor for The Record. The objective of the blog is to focus on shows at smaller, lesser known institutions, though Izzy made an exception for me to write about the Met Breuer (a small modern and contemporary art museum on the Upper East Side) since there was a show about a female Indian textile artist that I really wanted to write about! With Izzy’s help, I learned a lot about not only the proper style to write a museum review in, but also how to reach out to the press team of an institution to request images, and how to properly format a blogpost.

Another project I became involved in during my first week was doing research for Claire. As Chief Curator, Claire often curates her own shows, but also because of the way that the curatorial timeline works, many of these shows won’t actually be shown for a few years. Regardless, there is a ton of research to do prior to even deciding whether a show will happen or not. She assigned me the task of researching the Lebanese-American artist Kahlil Gibran, who is known primarily for his writings. I wrote an artist bio and timeline, read countless books about him, and worked on a checklist—an Excel spreadsheet of all the existing artworks by an artist, with information on their size, medium, title, date of creation, and where they are located. This may seem simple, but can be a pretty tedious task. Many collections don’t have digitized online collections, which makes it hard to track down individual pieces. However, checklists are super important, because TDC will ultimately have to narrow down the works we want from this list, and ask the collections that own them if we can borrow them for a show.

I also worked with Laura, TDC’s Executive Director, on planning for the upcoming Fall Auction. Every year TDC holds an auction, where senior staff members ask their artist friends to donate works of art to support the museum. This year almost 50 really amazing artists participated, and Laura tasked me with writing short bios for each artist to include in the Auction Booklet. This seemingly simple task turned out to be a learning experience because I learned that there is a very specific way to write about an artists’ life and career.

Perhaps what I will remember most about TDC are the people I worked with, simply because they were all so kind and welcoming—especially the cohort of other interns. The area that TDC is located in is near Chinatown, and it was really fun to explore different parts of the neighborhood during my lunch breaks. Even when I had days that were a little rough, I was really touched by the way that everyone took time out of their day to make sure I felt supported.

I would like to sincerely thank the ’68 Center for Career Exploration, as well as Ms. Anne O. Burleigh for sponsoring me with the O’Herron-Burleigh Internship. I am so grateful for your support. Working at TDC has solidified my interest in museum work and art history, and I know that the writing and curatorial skills I’ve acquired will be of immense use to me in my positions as an executive editor at The Record as well as an intern at WCMA. Although I still don’t have a fully realized idea of what I’d like to do in the future, I feel that I have a more nuanced understanding of what departments and positions exist within a small non-profit museum, which in turn helps me to consider where I best would fit in.