Claire Cossaboon: The Barnes Foundation, The Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Institute of Contemporary Art

Time sure does fly when you’re growing and having fun! Where has Summer 2012 gone? Well, for me, I was privileged to experience three very different and amazing institutions in Philadelphia’s arts and culture sector!
The exterior of the Barnes Foundation’s new campus, located on The Parkway
My internship at the Barnes Foundation has given me the opportunity to not only access the masterworks I have admired all my life, but also see in real-time how an institution can make major changes and uphold its foundational mission. Working in External Affairs (Visitor Services, Membership and Public Programs) at The Barnes has given me life-changing lessons about accessibility and the role of visitors in the museum field. My internship has also taught me how the various departments of any institution must constantly work together. 

The Barnes offered amazing Brown Bag Lunch lectures and field trips that provided me with a deeper understanding of the mission of the Barnes, as well as an appreciation for why and how the institution operates. All of the staff show admirable passions for their careers and the institution’s core values. Staff took such an interest in my personal projects in school and other work areas, and they constantly provided support and resources to aid my work and other interests. Conversations and interviews with staff have greatly assisted me with my Masters’ thesis research.
My visit to the archives at The Barnes’ Merion campus. Barbara Beaucar, Associate Archivist at the Barnes Foundation, shows me actual correspondence from Dr. Barnes, as well as documents that I refer to in my thesis.
Barbara Beaucar, Associate Archivist at the Barnes Foundation, discusses the archives and provides me with key information for my thesis during my trip to The Barnes’ Merion campus
The Barnes has allowed me to work on projects that make me feel of value to the institution; I really feel as though my efforts and time will make an impact at The Barnes. I have seen first-hand how the institution’s new campus on The Parkway has such a focus on its audiences, especially through its new offerings and accessibility to the public. It has been absolutely amazing to be able to work in a variety of areas at The Barnes. I have edited direct mail pieces and audio tours, as well as worked on updating the website. I have also developed a social media plan with suggestions for how each department should utilize the Barnes’ social media voice. I have assisted at the Barnes’ new visitor experiences through its Public Programs events, such as First Friday and PECO Free First Sunday. 
At The Barnes’ First Friday program “Ensembles in the Home,” John Gatti discusses Dr. Barnes’ ensembles and encourages attendees to experiment with creating their own ensembles so they can merge the new skills with their own home design. 

The Barnes Foundation’s PECO Free First Sundays are part of the institution’s commitment to public accessibility. First Sunday on August 5, 2012 was packed with a range of new programming, including Tai Chi on the West Terrace, screenings of the film “The Collector,” conversation and questions with The Barnes’ Head Gardener Drew Lehrian, performances by several musical groups, ArtSee Family Program activities, and of course, access to the collection’s ensembles. 
My time at the Barnes has proven to be a rewarding and invaluable experience unlike any I have ever had. I look forward to assisting at Barnes’ Public Programs and events this fall.
Previously Curatorial Assistant at The Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA), I was asked to step in as Interim of the Career Development Program (CDP) this summer and into the fall. 
CFEVA “dedicates itself to making art careers viable for those who choose them, helping emerging artists reach their audiences, and promoting interest and understanding of emerging visual art among citizens of the community.” (

The CDP Fellowship is unlike any other opportunity for artists. The free two-year fellowship gives artists opportunities to experience a full exhibition schedule, receive career counseling and mentorship, apply for travel and exhibition grants, earn money from the sale of their work, teach in the community and participate in numerous professional development opportunities. 

My position requires coordinating all aspects of exhibitions, including pre- and post-communications with artists and other organizations. I am currently coordinating CDP Fellows’ Spotlight Exhibitions, CFEVA’s PIFA 2013 exhibition, the exchange exhibition with Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, an artist exhibition for Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST), and an exhibition at ArtWorks in Trenton. Some of my duties include the following:  compiling all materials and information from artists, coordinating installation and de-installation, organizing and promoting receptions and artist talks, voicing CDP’s social media, writing all press materials and exhibition binder elements, maintaining press archives, preparing data and images for website, documenting and editing exhibition installations, researching prospects for grants, creating and disseminating a monthly newsletter, assisting visitors and exhibitors with daily concerns, among many other duties.
“The Factory and After” – An installation by CDP Fellow Lewis Colburn
CDP Fellow Lewis Colburn gives an Artist Talk at the Opening Reception of his Spotlight Exhibition “The Factory and After”
This summer I also applied the skills and knowledge acquired from my Museum Audience course by conducting a Visitor Study and Analysis for the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Philadelphia. 

I first attended a walk-through of the ICA’s summer exhibitions “First Among Equals” and “The Happy Show”.

A visitor explores the participatory elements of the Stefan Sagmeister’s exhibition “The Happy Show” at the ICA. The exhibition’s experiences greatly effect the visitors’ feedback during the evaluation.
A visitor explores the participatory elements of the Stefan Sagmeister’s exhibition “The Happy Show” at the ICA. The exhibition’s experiences greatly effect the visitors’ feedback during the evaluation.
I also met with ICA staff to determine goals for the evaluation, and also researched the times to execute the study. Developing and pre-testing the surveying instrument proved to be a fantastic exercise and application of everything I learned in Museum Audience.
On-site evaluations took place from June to August. The logging and analyzing of the summer’s data started in mid-August and will continue through mid-September. This evaluation will continue into the Fall to form a representative sample of the ICA’s audiences from its different seasons. I will continue visitor evaluations in late September, after the next two exhibitions have opened. A final analysis will be made in the Fall, and findings will be presented to the ICA. It is a very exciting project that will not only hopefully prove to be very useful across ICA’s various departments, but also a key case study for my Masters’ thesis.
Stefan Sagmeister’s “The Happy Show” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia
My experiences in these three institutions have been absolutely amazing and completely invaluable; I already recognize incredible growth from these few months alone. Also very noticeable, staff from each organization have constantly expressed appreciation for all of my contributions, which developed a passion in me to work even harder and also created feelings that I will surely never forget; this is a huge note that I will always keep in mind, especially when I someday have my own interns and volunteers. 

Every day of my art- and visitor-focused summer has reminded me of my passions and why I am in this field. Countless times I have caught myself thinking, “Yes, THIS is what I love. THIS is why I am doing this…”  I look forward to applying the knowledge, skills and experiences I have gained this summer to my concluding studies at Uarts and throughout my career. If you can do it for the joy, you can do it forever.