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MSLCE Student Leslie Zhu Begins Summer Internship at MCA

Photo credit: Isa Giallorenzo

By Leslie Zhu

The first thing I did after I moved to the Chicago area was to find a contemporary art museum in the city. I still cannot come up with a concrete answer to why I am so enchanted by them. I grew up in a family with no one related to art, and I never imagined this could one day be my career. I guess sometimes there is just no way to explain the impulse.

Eight months later, I am now sitting in the office at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago as a social media intern. Everything still seems to be surreal and exciting, and I am still a little “awkward” in the new time and space.

My first official day at the museum coincided with the opening of the exhibition: Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg. My second day working there was ArtEdge:50 gala, the MCA’s 50th anniversary and the celebration of its opening. Although I took the non-profit organization course this year and read every piece of news about the museum all over the world, everything I experienced here was still very different and mind-blowing.

I call it an overwhelming beginning, not only because the gala was fancy and glamourous, with stylish guests, exquisite food, Janelle Monáe performing and that it raised 3 million dollars in total, but also because I realize that the whole idea and implementation of this big event is complicated and efficient. Takashi Murakami is known for his colorful creations and collaboration with celebrities and fashion houses, so the opening of his exhibition was the best opportunity for a fundraising gala. Moreover, the iconic elements in his art could be a unified theme for all the celebrations. Also, the collective effort of every department, including all the partnerships, was organized in a vast but methodical web to maintain the good relationships with all the donors.

My job at the gala was to help the media influencers on Instagram take photos at the gala. It was a great chance to figure out how they became influencers and observe the entire event that night. The next Monday after gala, I began the comparatively “mundane” routine of a social media intern: creating content for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; reviewing weekly and monthly data analytics; and managing mail lists and e-news. However, I feel somewhat more comfortable with these tasks. A good intern should always start grounded.

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