Sara Sadri ’23

North Adams Partnership, North Adams, MA

This summer I interned for John DeRosa on the MASS MoCA Book Project through the North Adams Partnership nonprofit organization. The North Adams Partnership as a group is focused on locally-based economic development initiatives to stimulate the North Adams economy. More specifically, though, the goal of my internship was to research the story of MASS MoCA—not the mythologies touted in the press over the last few decades since the institution’s original conception, but the actual, true story in all of its many contours. The creation of MASS MoCA has cultural, political, developmental, and personal themes, and over the last two months I’ve had the chance to explore some of them through conducting interviews, compiling research, and ultimately developing a working archive that hopefully will help inform a future book detailing the unique establishment of the museum.

Transcribing this morning’s interview.

The main “project” that my co-intern and I worked on was preparing for and conducting interviews with various key players involved in the creation of MASS MoCA. These interviews included former Massachusetts governors, Michael Dukakis and Jane Swift, along with major early fundraisers for the museum like Jennifer Trainer, Duncan Brown ’60, and Jack Wadsworth ’61, among others. We also spoke at length with Joe Thompson ’81 and John DeRosa regarding the specific details and challenges in the early days of developing MASS MoCA. Before each interview my co-intern and I would draft questions specific to the person we were going to speak to, and then after the interview we would evaluate what we gained from the conversation and how what the interviewee said aligned (or didn’t align) with what we already knew. In that sense, the summer was a constant process of evaluating and re-evaluating information and the project challenged me to think 
critically about how historical accounts are constructed.

In addition to the actual assignments that we completed this summer, I learned a lot more about museum development and the world of art institutions in general. I didn’t have a significant background in art or a professional interest in art development prior to the internship (I was more compelled by the narrative aspect of uncovering and constructing MASS MoCA’s origin story), but coming out of this experience I definitely think what I’ve learned will inform future course selections, and at the very least, has led to a growing personal interest for me in the visual arts. I don’t see myself gravitating toward museum operations as a potential career path, but I was quite interested in the developmental and financial aspects of the cultural world, particularly in considering what it means to blend monetary resources with creative outputs in performance and visual art.

I am ultimately so grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in this internship. From the experience of working on the Book Project itself to the chance to live on-campus in Williamstown this summer, it has been an incredibly enriching few months. I’d especially like to thank the Kraft Family for their generous support; I’ve had a great 
summer and I’ve learned a lot!