Have you ever commuted by ferry to work? Until my internship with the Trust for Governors Island, I sure had not! While the location of my internship this summer was certainly unique, the experience I had working as Arts and Culture Intern with the Trust was truly spectacular.
The Trust for Governors Island is a nonprofit organization, created by the City of New York, entrusted with the operations, planning, and development of Governors Island. This 172-acre island is situated in New York Harbor, just south of the tip of Manhattan. The Trust has three key initiatives that inform the organization’s work and the future of the Island – arts and culture; open space; education and research focused on the climate crisis. These intentional focuses advance the Trust’s mission to realize the full potential of Governors Island for the inspiration and enjoyment of all New Yorkers, demonstrating a bold vision for public space. Even though the Island is only open six-months per year, nearly 1,000,000 guests visit per season, 80% of which are from New York City.
My internship with the Trust provided me the opportunity to apply the business and arts administration skills I have developed during my first year at the Wisconsin School of Business MBA program within the context of planning, organizing, and producing large-scale public art commissions. Having worked in development for arts and cultural organizations in the past, this was an exciting opportunity to explore the more programmatic and operational sides of the sector. I must say, the Trust for Governors Island truly exceeded my expectations for the learning outcomes I anticipated for the summer.
I had the privilege of working with the VP of Arts and Culture and Head Curator and the Director of Public Programs for the Trust. From the start, everyone was incredibly welcoming and immediately incorporated me into the team dynamic. The Trust’s culture of collaboration and mentorship provided me with the confidence and resources I needed to dive right into some large, impactful projects.
While not all of the special projects I supported during my internship have been publicly announced yet, I had the opportunity to work on two incredible commissions which will be opening on the Island in the near future: Herstory of the Universe by Richard Move and The Open Orchard by Sam Van Aken.
Herstory of the Universe is a series of site-specific dance performances which will take visitors on a journey through Governors Island’s unique environment, history, and architecture. I collaborated with the creative team and utilized strategies from the Arts Management and Leadership Seminar curriculum to support the production process for this engaging, multisite performance installation. This experience helped strengthen my project coordination skills and demonstrated the importance of being detail oriented.
The Open Orchard will explore the effects of climate change and industrialized agriculture through an expansive artwork of grafted, hybrid stone and pome fruit trees planted in an orchard on Governors Island and distributed throughout the New York boroughs. This commission provided me with two exciting challenges: building out a city-wide tree distribution process and developing an intuitive, flexible database. During this project, I was able to successfully apply operations management principles in an arts and culture setting, which was a fun, unexpected experience.
I also worked on a variety of targeted research projects to help inform material and programmatic elements for other future installations. These research projects were particularly rewarding since they offered me the space to be curious and explore histories, cultures, and critical theories that I had not had the opportunity to wholly engage with before.
I am so grateful for the Arts and Culture team’s continued support and guidance as I worked through these impactful projects. I cannot wait for the public to experience these immersive site-specific commissions and corresponding programming in the months to come!