In the words of GCAC intern Ariel Gentalen as she completes her internship and heads to Chicago for grad school…
The first word that comes to mind while reflecting on my year as an intern at Grand Central Art Center is community. It is John Spiak’s unflinching commitment to partnerships and involvement that created a beneficial learning environment to expand my understanding of the inner workings of the art world. I was also fortunate to be working with the supportive and welcoming staff that makes Grand Central such a lovely place to be on a day-to-day basis.
My time at Grand Central began after a last minute, and insane, road trip to Portland, OR to attend Open Engagement 2012 conference. It was ultimately an adventure that developed into one of the most important experiences of my undergraduate career. I say adventure, because CSUF Professor Gretchen Potts drove myself and two other art students 16 hours in a rented Prius, to attend. At the time it didn’t seem like a flawed plan, but upon our arrival, as we sat across from each other at lunch as speechless zombies from exhaustion, we realized flying there might have been easier. After a quick nap, we attended panel discussions focused on integrating social practice into museums, outlining successful education programs in museums and galleries, as well as creating alternative spaces for creativity where established institutions have none. I met and conversed with individuals who were responsible for creating dynamic public programming and working directly with communities. These meetings helped me conclude that this must be my career path, not only to fulfill my own passions, but also to guide others in a similar fashion. Connecting with John at the conference and seeing him speak on the “It Turns our There is Room for Everyone: Museums and Social Practice” panel, I knew that I wanted to work with someone so devoted to the tide of Social Practice art and how it benefits surrounding communities. One week after the conference, I began my GCAC internship.
Over the course of the summer and the following year, I was lucky enough to work with an amazing list of artists in residence, assisting in the realization of projects – from contacting surrounding Santa Ana organizations trying to recruit baseball players for Adam Moser’s MLB project; to sitting on the floor of the AIR apartment with Lisa Bielawa conversing about art and music culture in Orange County; to sharing mouthwatering arepa cooked by current GCAC Project Room exhibiting artist Saskia Jorda. As an Art History major, you spend the majority of your time studying flashcards, reading verbose art theory and attempting to comprehend what the omnipresent art world is – and how you eventually want to fit into it. It is a testament to the power of informal learning experiences – being a fly on the wall during meetings or grant writing discussions –which provided the opportunity for a demystification of what it means to operate in the art world. Grand Central also connected me to Project Access, through an opportunity to produce and run a workshop in partnership with their teen program hosted at Santa Ana Community College. Throughout my year here, there has been nothing but support, whether it comes in the form of pitch meetings for public programming. allowing for time off during grad school application panic, or other on campus leadership duties. It has been a truly rewarding and informative year in how to operate as an advocate of the arts.
Next week, I will be flying (we learned our lesson – no more road trips) out to Portland with fellow student and friend Karla Monterrey to attend Open Engagement once again. It may be painfully cliché, but I embrace the cyclical journey this past year at Grand Central has provided me. I am so excited to be critically engaged for three days of intense art focused discussion, this time with a well-rested and attentive brain. Karla and I are committed to taking and applying all of the conversations at Open Engagement with us to graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It is my hope to engage communities the way John and the Grand Central Art Center has done with CSUF and Santa Ana, as well as nurture a future generation of critical citizens.
CSUF, BA in Art History, Minor in Women’s Studies, ‘13