Congratulations to Cultural Studies PhD student M. Liz Andrews for her new position at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Liz is working as the Executive Administrator at LACMA and working with the Director/CEO,Michael Govan. Esma H. Celebioglu conducted a short interview with Liz to learn more about this new position and how Liz will apply her Cultural Studies lens to her duties. Read below to see her responses.
What experiences have led you to this job?
A big part was being an administrator at the NYU Tisch School of Arts for a few years before coming to Mason. Working in the photography department prepared me for the day to day work that this job will entail. Intellectually, being a student of visual culture has led me to think deeply about visual images, vision and subjectivity. This knowledge enables me to soak up the environment of LACMA - it's exhibitions, extensive library on art, and numerous curators and scholars. A combination of theoretical work in Cultural Studies and administrative work at an arts institution have prepared me well for this new role.
Could you tell us a bit about your position, what sort of things will you be working on?
As the Executive Administrator to the CEO/ director, Michael Govan, it is my job to coordinate the every day schedule and larger picture for the leader the Museum. My first week was wild! It involved a trip to the Clark Art Institute where I saw Mr. Govan give a keynote alongside a writer I admire, Jamaica Kincaid; I got to visit Mass MOCA as well as Dia: Beacon, an art space Mr. Govan founded and where I learned from him about the artists featured as well as the thinking behind the making of the space; and finally I got to accompany Mr. Govan to a conversation he moderated with artist James Turrell and the architect of the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, David Adjaye, that was a part of the White House South by South Lawn festivities in Washington, DC. Every day won't be this glamorous but it was a great start and I'm excited for what's to come!
How is your job related to your academic interests?
The job is related in a couple ways. Firstly, I have always been interested in the intersection of art and politics- that interest is what led me to pursue graduate degrees, first in Arts Politics at the Tisch School of Arts and now in Cultural Studies. I am fascinated by the ways art - music, poetry, photography, etc. - often plays a unique and central role in politics. For instance, the civil rights movement was defined by masses of people working for political change and those people were united across generations and locations by music; freedom songs that helped create a sense of collection consciousness around causes.
Secondly, I am curious to see the ways an institution of power/knowledge, one that is focused on art, operates on a practical level. Art has also been instrument in the creation of hierarchies between cultures (i.e.- the Italian renaissance was thought to represent the pinnacle of artistic achievement and was used as evidence of the supposed superiority of European culture). I don't think it always has to be this way, and I'm looking forward to learning about how people at museums think about the work they do from inside an arts institution.
What is the most exciting thing about your new position?
The question I asked Michael Govan during my interview for this job was if this position could involve mentorship because I am interested in learning how to be a leader of an arts institution. He said that is exactly the type of relationship he hoped for in this position. Now, I'm excited to be curious, ask questions, and interact with art, artists, and curators to take my intellectual work to a new level. I think it is a perfect position to take on while I am writing my dissertation because it will expose me to even more ways of seeing and reading images. I'm also very much excited to be in a sunny new city and have plans to meditate by the ocean regularly as a way to stay connected to my dissertation project: an investigation of images from the 2008 Obama campaign as a way to understand the making of Obama into a political and cultural icon.