Art in the City Mandy Witherspoon ’18 combined her love of art with her expertise in business at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Mandy Witherspoon ’18
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Majors: Business Administration and Art History
Q: Tell us a little bit about your summer opportunity?
This past summer, I worked at the as a marketing and communications intern. My days were spent in the back offices of the museum, researching artists and brainstorming titles for upcoming exhibits, organizing PR calendars and press releases, writing blog posts about present and past art at the museum, and archiving documents from previous exhibits. A Johnson Opportunity Grant helped make this possible.
Q: What was your favorite aspect of your summer experience?
Baltimore is my hometown, and I am so fortunate to have these opportunities and experiences so close to home. The museum is right next to the Johns Hopkins campus, so I explored the nearby college town during my lunch breaks. On the weekends, I tried to explore the rest of the city and take part in the local attractions, such as the annual Artscape. Baltimore is also a short drive or commuter train ride away from Washington, D.C., so I visited friends and art exhibits in the capital whenever possible.
Q: What did an average day for you look like?
I worked in a small office with five other members of the M&C team, though I was the only intern. Sometimes we had a morning meeting to discuss the progress on the upcoming exhibitions. I mostly worked at my desk. A few times there were all-staff meetings, where the director of the museum, Christopher Bedford, would chat with the staff about the future of the museum. Some days we ventured into the exhibits to do some promotional work for the website. All in all, each day was completely unique.
Q: What was the most rewarding and fulfilling part of this experience?
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to sit in a few all staff meetings, where the new director Christopher Bedford led discussions about the museum’s future and encouraged staff from all departments and ranks to join in. I was impressed by how open-minded and aware the staff is and how eager the museum is to mold and adapt to the new role museums play in our society. I am part of the new generation, and it was amazing to see and hear that a museum that just celebrated its 100th birthday is moving in the same direction as I am. It makes me hopeful and excited for when it comes my time to join the museum industry.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Blog posts. I’d never taken a journalism class at W&L, and my last English class was back in high school. I got off to a slow start, but once I had warmed up to the idea and got into the research, the idea became less terrifying and more intriguing. I emailed coworkers who attended the events I was covering for quotes, and by the end, I had learned a little history about the museum. When we as visitors see an exhibit, we tend to look past all the work that goes into the exhibit from the corporate side. The blogs helped me to see past the glitz and instead see all the hard work that the curatorial team, the installation team, the marketing team, etc., puts into even the tiniest of shows.
Q: Who served as a mentor to you, and what did they teach you?
I was lucky enough to have four amazing mentors this summer: Anne Brown, senior director of communications and marketing; Mary Margaret Stephanian, marketing and partnerships manager; Sarah Pedroni P’14, communications and group sales coordinator; and Jessica Novack, communications and editorial manager. Each one had her own history and experience that made her vital to the museum’s marketing department.
Through their different expertise, I learned about different areas of marketing needed to advertise an upcoming exhibit. I saw how creative and passionate they are about the museum and how willing they are to engage with the Baltimore community. I saw exhibits grow and how the museum used different facets of social media and paid advertising to get the word out to the public. They included me in meetings to plan upcoming exhibits and events and helped me understand all that needs to be done from a marketing perspective to make these events successful. I was so lucky to be surrounded by such hard working, knowledgeable, sweet and funny people.
Q: What have you learned at W&L that helped you in this endeavor, and what will you bring back to your life on campus?
The W&L curriculum helped me to not only land such a prestigious internship, but also to navigate through unfamiliar work territory. W&L’s speaking tradition helped me to become comfortable in the new work environment and create work friendships. W&L has taught me to speak up not only when I have questions, but to also to share my onions and become an active member of the team. By the end of the summer, I felt I had left my mark and was not just another nameless intern. This year, I will come back to W&L with even more confidence in my career decisions, knowing I’m on the right path for my future success.
Q: Did this experience impact your studies or future plans in any way?
Absolutely. I wanted to see if I could one day combine my two majors in a setting I’ve always loved. This summer has shown me that I enjoy working behind the scenes of the museum, just as much as I enjoy the museum itself. This internship has introduced me to the corporate life of museums, and now I know this is a place where I’ll want to return.
Q: Why is this kind of experience important to W&L students?
The non-profit sector is a different pace and environment than I was used to when I worked for a marketing agency last summer. As a college student trying to decide my future, it was extremely beneficial for me to see how the other side of the industry works. I am so grateful to spend my last summer as a student working at a marketing agency, but also equally as grateful that I had the chance to explore a dream of mine to work in a museum. College is the time to seek out your hopes and dreams; you never know where it might take you after you graduate.
Q: Describe your summer adventure in one word: