This is the first of a two-part blog by Kristina Anthony, HMA’s Exhibitions Manager, sharing her experience in coming to HMA and highlights of her time working on exhibitions.
I often tell my student interns that the reality of landing the perfect job right out of college in the non-profit art world is slim to none. They need to make the most of every opportunity that comes their way. If you like a certain institution and there are no full-time or paid positions available, do volunteer work or take a part-time position. Places like HMA like to hire / promote internally, so make yourself indispensable, and have an “I can do that” attitude.
Here is my story:
I got my foot in the door at HMA in 2006 by starting in Visitor Services and handling museum rentals. I fully wiggled my way in shortly after that becoming Communications Manager, mainly doing marketing, public relations, graphic design, and coordinating some exhibitions. In 2008, the Exhibitions Manager position opened up, so I jumped at the opportunity, and morphed into Exhibitions & Communications Manager. I really should have more gray hair than I do, this was an insane move — basically having the responsibilities of two full time jobs that are extremely busy at the same time. (Did I mention I was also doing the catering for receptions?) It was crazy but that is what you do in the non-profit world, right?
I loved my job. But in 2015, my life changed when I had my son. I really wanted to stay at HMA, but I knew it’d be unfair to my family to keep going at that pace. So when I was preparing to leave on maternity, I asked to come back doing exhibitions only, where my passion truly lies.
Ever since high school I wanted to work in a museum. I thought it’d be so cool to work with a collection doing research. I entered college planning to major in archaeology, with the idea of doing museum work versus field work digs. But quickly changed to Art History because of an amazing professor, Dr. Arn Lewis, who opened up a new world to me. Since I wanted to work in a museum, why not an art museum? However, I spent a semester in NYC interning at a well-known art museum and that experience left me disillusioned with having a career in an art museum.
But while in NYC I visited numerous museums and began thinking about exhibition design, wondering about the people who make complicated topics accessible to casual visitors. I later went on to study Museum Exhibition Planning & Design and worked for a fantastic architecture and exhibition design firm in Philadelphia. After 9/11, all of the museums I was working with at the firm got scared and pulled out of projects, so I was left without a job.
I moved to North Carolina, looked for jobs in metropolitan areas, did volunteer work in local museums while earning money in the restaurant/bar industry. I remember seeing an advertisement at the gym for the Joel Meyerowitz 9/11 photography show at HMA, and I thought to myself, “Hickory has an art museum?” I wasn’t ready to see the exhibit, so I never made it to HMA. Another year went by before I gave the art museum another thought … when I received a call from Lisë Swensson, who was Executive Director of HMA, asking me to come in for an interview. Catawba Science Center, where I was doing volunteer work in their Exhibitions Department, had shared my resume with her thinking I might be a good fit (I guess it was obvious that Physics and Chemistry were not in my wheelhouse). Remember I mentioned I was disillusioned with art museums? It never occurred to me to look for work at HMA, even though it is in the same building as the science center!
I felt the aforementioned museum in NYC did not care about its visitors, specifically visitors with little to no art knowledge. It was the stereotypical snobby art institution. I thought that would be my experience with most art museums.
But Hickory Museum of Art was different. Hickory Museum of Art continues to be different. Giving art museums a second chance was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am proud that I have been part of HMA’s 75 year history for the past 12+ years. I am grateful HMA renewed my faith in what I thought an art museum should be — a place that welcomes you where you are at in your knowledge of art, and helps you on your journey.
Stay tuned for Kristina Anthony’s next blog where she shares favorite moments during her tenure at HMA.
This post is # 36 of the 75 stories to celebrate HMA's 75 years.
Post written by Kristina Anthony, HMA Exhibitions Manager