Best jobs: MoMA
What it's like to get job feedback from Tim Burton. (Pretty awesome.)
Mon Aug 2 2010
Photographs: Lizz Kuehl
Unfortunately, most of us will never get job feedback from Tim Burton or Quentin Tarantino, but for many employees at the, that's par for the course.
"With an exhibition where a living artist is involved, we often meet with the artist himself," says Julia Hoffmann, MoMA's creative director of advertising and graphic design. "As you can imagine, it is particularly thrilling [for a staffer] to meet Tim Burton or Marina Abramovic and hear their opinion on your work." Sean Egan, who began as a finance temp and now manages the department of film, has rubbed shoulders with visiting directors including Quentin Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow. "Tarantino really owned the room when he came last December to discuss Inglourious Basterds," says Egan, whose career progression is indicative of MoMA's commitment to helping young employees become power players within the museum's ranks and the larger art world.
"MoMA opened up an institutional world for me," says Aidan O'Connor, a curatorial assistant who landed her dream job in the department of architecture and design after earning a master's in the history of decorative arts and design from a joint program through the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and Parsons. When she's not researching and planning exhibitions, O'Connor digs through her department's extensive archives, where she's unearthed telegrams from Frank Lloyd Wright and a handwritten letter from designer Josef Hoffmann to curator Philip Johnson.
As the assistant director of merchandising, Lauren Solotoff takes four or five international trips each year to select the items that fill the shelves of the MoMA Design Store. "My most memorable buying trip was last year when we visited Portugal," she recalls. "The Ministry of Culture set up a private trade show for our team in an old rope factory by the port. They brought together more than 75 designers just for us."
And while employment at MoMA doesn't guarantee face time with celebrities or trips to Portugal, all staffers do benefit from free tickets to the museum's film screenings, gratis access to other art institutions around New York City and exclusive curator-led walk-throughs of exhibitions after they open to the public. Generous vacation time (more than the standard two weeks, even for entry-level employees) and benefits packages seal the already-sweet deal.
Wanna work here?
MoMA lists all open employment and internship positions on its website (moma.org/about). Applicants should be ready to demonstrate their interest in current and past MoMA exhibitions. Experience working or volunteering in the nonprofit world is a plus. "The best way to get a job at MoMA is to have a job at MoMA. Get a foot in the door and then figure out a way to differentiate yourself," says Egan. "Internships are good places to start," he adds. "We've hired interns before."
Employees: Approximately 750
Tenure among employees: Varies, but some have been here more than 40 years