Molly Spencer ’24

Barbara Prey Projects, Port Clyde, ME

Barbara Prey Projects is an independently owned and operated gallery based in Port Clyde, Maine, that exhibits the work of renowned painter Barbara Ernst Prey, whose work is featured in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Gallery; and she is one of two living, female artists to be featured in the collection of the White House. While she has been exhibiting her work in Maine for more than 40 years, her Port Clyde gallery was opened in 2000.

As gallery manager, I was responsible for all visitor interactions within the gallery space as well as developing and maintaining customer relationships. Outside of actual gallery operations, I managed the gallery’s marketing and promotional programs. Prior to opening the gallery for the summer season, I put up posters all over the midcoast region and personally reached out to local businesses about promoting the gallery. I continued our promotional efforts into the summer season by putting together and sending out invitational packets to local journalists, museum staff and art collectors. I also organized social media for the gallery in order to encourage traffic and promote events hosted by the gallery.

Working within the private art sector has opened my eyes to many more possible careers associated with my major. As an art history major, my de-facto career options seem to be professor or curator; however, there is certainly a demand for individuals who are well versed in the history, culture and vernacular of art within the smaller, private sector. I was first introduced to the private side of the art world when I first worked for Barbara through a Winter Study internship program. As a digital archive intern, I was able to experience a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on within a private artist’s studio. Now, as her gallery manager, I have experienced the more public, front-facing aspect of the private art sector.

Professionally, I feel that this internship has given me a much greater appreciation for individual artists and smaller galleries. I feel that most people want to pursue careers with large, famous and historically wealthy art institutions because these are the only institutions they know. However, working with Barbara has demonstrated the many career opportunities that are available to me as an art history student looking to work in the smaller-scale, private sector. Personally, I am much more interested in cultivating a career with a smaller institution where I am allowed to share my ideas and work personally with other individuals than in a large museum with little to no change over time. I have always enjoyed sharing art and art history with other people, and I think this goal is much more feasible in smaller, one-on-one settings with a degree of local charm. Working in a small yet well-established gallery in a locale known for its distinctive art and art culture has afforded me this exact opportunity.