I picked up the phone in a frustrated fury and dialed the number of the person who is always there to field my complaints and provide good advice when I need it the most—my dad. As a sophomore in college at the time, I was knee deep in the search for the “right major” and my personal answer to that all-too-common question: “So, Kate, what do you want to do when you graduate?” On this particular day, I was feeling pressure from every direction to make myself marketable, build my resume, and learn new skills by piling on activity after boring activity. I felt that I was headed nowhere good, or fun, for that matter. That’s when my dad gave me the best advice that I have heard to this day:
The first thing I thought of was art. After a quick Google search, I found the volunteer program at the Blanton, and I filled out an application that day. My training started soon afterwards, and before I knew it, I had my very own Blanton name tag.
That was in fall of 2014. I have now been volunteering at the Blanton for over a year. As a volunteer, I have had many unique opportunities. I started out by assisting at fun community events, like Austin Museum Day, and also performed operational duties, such as handing out maps and answering questions at the Information Desk. My absolute favorite experience as a volunteer was helping to put on “B scene: Exquisite Corpse” last October. It featured a zombie band, ink drawing stations, and incorporated elements from James Drake’s brilliant Brain Trash exhibition.
As a business student, my interests naturally lie in the inner workings of an organization—especially a place like the Blanton. With this in mind, I approached Martha Bradshaw, the museum’s Manager of Visitor and Volunteer Services. Would I be able to volunteer in the Blanton administrative offices?
In early Spring 2015, I began volunteering weekly in the Membership Department at the Blanton. I had the privilege of organizing documents, filing paperwork, and sending out personalized membership letters to our donors. Knowing that I was a part of helping the Blanton to uphold the member experience through my work was so fulfilling.
This fall, I have been spending time as a volunteer in the PR & Marketing Department. I have gotten to assist with radio copy, update online event pages, and help out with the Blanton Blog. Next semester, I will be embarking on a project to re-label and reorganize the department’s archival exhibition files. I can’t wait to dive into the history of art at the Blanton as well as introduce more efficient ways to preserve those records.
When I began volunteering at the Blanton, I had no idea that I would be able to work directly with the Blanton’s Membership Associate or the PR and Marketing Manager. But that’s how it goes around here. The Blanton will help you find where you belong. Working in the offices and learning more about the underlying business of a museum is right where I should be. If you’re not convinced by my diverse experiences at the museum, here are some other reasons students might like to volunteer with the Blanton:
- The Blanton is a sanctuary of learning—bout art, about new and valuable skills, and about oneself. Volunteers can observe different career paths in action and discover their desires for their own future.
- Volunteering at the Blanton gives you an opportunity to take a break from your studies, meet new people, and contribute to Austin’s unique art scene.
- If nothing else, giving your time to something you care about is absolutely worth every minute.
The art world doesn’t just need more people who have their masters degrees in art history (well, they do)—they also need you. Volunteering in the Blanton offices has taught me that it takes many people of many talents to run a place as complex as an art museum. As a business student, I’ve found that I have a place here, and I love it.
Being at the Blanton has never been a chore for me—it’s a joy. As I am writing this blog, I am sitting in the offices above the Blanton Café surrounded by creative souls who live and breathe art and Austin culture. It’s a peaceful atmosphere—I get lost in my work and forget for a few hours that I’m only a 3-minute walk from the classrooms at UT. In short, it’s the best. I will continue to enjoy donating my time to this organization until I graduate. I hope you’ll join me.
Kate Barnhart is a junior at UT studying Marketing and Psychology. She has been volunteering with the Blanton since Fall 2014.