This summer I had the great opportunity to be involved with PR and marketing at the Gibbes Museum of Art. I’ve known for time that my interest in art would lead me to the art management realm. However, up until I started this internship, this was based more on theory than experience. I had no idea what was involved in the promotion, preservation, and upkeep of an art collection and a museum. As a student of art history with no formal studies in management, it is easy to focus solely on the interpretation and understanding of art and somewhat forget about the homes in which these objects are housed. And that is what the Gibbes feels like for the Charleston and Lowcountry area—a home for art that celebrates, preserves, and cultivates an understanding in the artistic identity of the south. The Gibbes’ Beaux-Arts building is a work of art itself, and it was fascinating to learn about the roles of the people who are responsible for the smooth operation of this museum.
During the summer, one of my main duties included managing and creating some of the social outreach efforts—namely on Facebook and Twitter. These sites are excellent tools to get information out to the public in a quick and provocative way. I researched and developed short posts to connect the art or history of the Gibbes to current events or interests. Through this process I have become very familiar with the museum and its collection in a multidimensional way—not only is a post about highlighting information about a work of art or an event, it is also about creating conversations around Charleston’s cultural community, past and present. It’s always great to see responses to these posts and know that there are others out there who find these connections just as intriguing as I do!
Another large project that I had this summer was the creation of promotional ideas for social media for the upcoming fall exhibits, Sound and Vision: Monumental Rock and Roll Photography and Willard Hirsch: Charleston’s Sculptor. For Sound and Vision, I researched not only the famous musicians who are featured in the pictures, but also the photographers who captured the unforgettable images of these stars. In many cases, these photographers were partly responsible for the artist’s fame. Dick Waterman (b. 1935)—who photographed Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, and B.B. King—also worked to revitalize the blues movement by seeking these artists out, recording them, and becoming a lifelong friend. Other times, photographers were hired for a shoot or two and ultimately captured the iconic photo that immediately comes to mind when thinking of a musician. Who can think of The Doors and Jim Morrison without picturing the black and white image by Joel Brodsky (1939–2007) of Morrison with arms outstretched, staring out at the viewer? Interestingly, some of the photographers describe these as dumb-luck shots, and were surprised by the monumental responses to them.
Though learning about the musicians featured in the photos was interesting, I was more fascinated with the accounts of the photographers. We usually don’t hear the stories from behind the camera when looking at portraiture. Gered Mankowitz (b. 1946), who photographed Jimi Hendrix in 1967, describes the relationship between photographer and musician as one that relies heavily on trust. These photographers were tasked not only with the capturing the likeness of their subjects, but also with conveying a sense of the musician’s personality and persona. I can’t wait to see the photographs in person and I’m sure it will be an incredibly impressive exhibition! Make sure to keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for fun facts about the works of art on view this fall, and the related programs and events. Please join in the conversation!
—Alice Van Arsdale, museum relations intern and guest blogger