Though it’s been five years since Femke Speelberg moved to New York to work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she still needs to remind herself that she’s not dreaming.
“It’s such a great place, I still have to pinch myself I’m actually here,” she said with a laugh during an interview last week.
The city and the job were both big changes for Speelberg, who will be speaking at an MSLCE speaker series event on April 7. She grew up in a small village in the south of the Netherlands, so moving was a jump to “the other end of the spectrum.”
The move came after the Met created a new position — Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings — and Speelberg’s name kept coming up for it. This was due in part to a conference she attended while working a series of temporary research positions and struggling to make ends meet in the Netherlands. She almost skipped the conference because she was feeling so overworked, but rallied and went. It was there she met and hit it off with a Met museum curator who eventually recommended her for the job.
The experience made her realize an important lesson she is likely to touch on when she speaks with MSLCE students: it’s always worth it to take advantage of an opportunity to talk about your work.
“If you know what you’re actually saying and what you’re publishing, you can make a lasting impression,” she said.
Before Speelberg wanted to be a curator, she wanted to be an artist or a performer. After auditioning unsuccessfully for art schools, she decided to try art history. Though she was initially intimidated by how much more her peers seemed to know than she did, she quickly realized she had both a talent and a passion for the field.
“The Netherlands is a tiny country, and opportunities are very slim, so I grasped everything that I could, and I went from project to project after I graduated,” she said. “Luckily, because I was so excited about everything I did, that came through in the work.”
Sign up for the MSLCE April Speaker Series with Femke Speelberg and Daniel Danzig, a Consultant and Member of The Museum Group, by visiting our website at creative.northwestern.edu/speaker_series.