In this installment of Behind the Blanton, a blog series where we shed light on staff that work behind-the-scenes, meet Cassandra Smith. She’s the Blanton’s Manager of Exhibitions, and oversees the day-to-day production schedule and tasks for all gallery activities, and is also the primary point person for the reinstallation project. Cassandra began her career in museum collections and exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Art where she worked from 1997-2005. She has worked as a registrar and exhibition manager at several art museums over the past two decades including; The Modern, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, SFMOMA, San Antonio Museum of Art, and The Contemporary.
What made you pursue a job in the museum field?
When I was sixteen I fell in love with a Philip Guston painting, promptly declared to my dad that I would be going to art school, and soon after got a degree in studio art from UT. After I graduated I was extremely lucky to score a fantastic internship at the Modern in Fort Worth (home of my favorite painting!), which ultimately led to jobs at the Amon Carter Museum, SFMOMA, San Antonio Museum of Art, The Contemporary Austin, and now the Blanton.
Manager of Exhibitions is a pretty broad title: what does a typical work day at the Blanton look like for you?
In simplest terms, “Mission Control.” Not a glamorous job, but necessary to create a successful exhibition. I have an embarrassingly high number of scheduled meetings per week, and an equal amount of impromptu drop-ins from co-workers. I am constantly juggling production schedules to make sure deadlines are met and exhibitions open on time, on budget, and are excellent. On any given day, I might be checking in on an installation in progress, reviewing exhibitions designs for a future project, approving expenditures, reviewing incoming exhibition proposals, discussing facilities issues, editing text, or negotiating contract terms with a lender or museum…oh, and the aforementioned meetings.
What has been your favorite exhibition to work on at the Blanton and why?
Moderno, a technically difficult project due to the number and types of works in the show—but the end result was beautiful, culturally rich, and innovative. I love working at a museum on the leading edge for the research and exhibition of Latin American Art.
What’s a part of your job that people might be surprised to find that you manage? What’s the hardest aspect of it?
There is not a particular part that is surprising, but the shear volume of items might be surprising to some. Typically every artwork, interpretative text, and design seen in our galleries goes across my desk at some point. With so many wonderful ideas, it can be difficult to distill what the essential parts are and make sure efforts are being applied in the right areas. I am also the person responsible for securing rights that allow our visitors to take photographs in our galleries—something that we have made a priority over the past few years.
And finally: do you have any weird talents that people would be surprised to know about?
No weird talents! Just a love for making things with my hands, especially masks, which I routinely make my family wear for family portraits and general absurdity.
Learn more about our staff members by checking out other features in Behind the Blanton.