I’m the kind of person that is constantly buying all kinds of new paper goods—journals, sketchbooks, notepads—and never living up to the task of filling them up…until now. Aside from one ketchup-stained page devoted to a fireside game of M.A.S.H. while camping in Big Sur, every single page of my reporter’s notebook is covered in the blue ink recording the 25+ interviews I’ve done this summer. So, this is a real feat for me. I stared at this engorged notebook on the subway ride uptown to the Whitney to interview Niki Cosgrove ’02, and was reminded of the fullness of my summer.
Niki meets me at the staff entrance of the museum with her French bulldog, Lulu. It’s cool to bring your dog to work? I’m already convinced this is an awesome job. We pick up some lunch and make our way towards Central Park. Once we’ve secured our bench overlooking the Conservatory Pond (yes, that’s the picturesque one with all the toy sailboats) and scarf a few bites of sandwich, Niki tells me about her job at The Whitney.
She works as a Curatorial Assistant, specializing in Film & Video. Unlike some other major museums, there are no official curatorial ‘departments’ at the Whitney. So, in theory she could work across a number of different media. Being a curator means playing a lot of different roles. Museum shows take an insane amount of logistics and coordination. You would never guess it by the pristine and perfect way that most art is displayed, which tends to hide the months and months of work that go into putting on a show. Film and video, Niki tells me, is it’s a particulary ‘unique beast’. Unlike a painting that just comes out of storage, film and video require real technical support and know-how. So, that means there are lots of logistics involved in Niki’s job. There’s also writing—for books, museum publications, wall text, as well as studio visits. Not to mention, one of the highlights of her job is working with artists. In conversations, whe refers to Claes Oldenberg simply as Claes (but not in any kind of art-diva way). And knows where he lives. I find this very amusing. And undeniably cool.
When I ask Niki about what she got from Williams that’s helping her out in her job now, she quoted her father, who was quoting his father, when she said, “You go to college to learn how to live. And you go to graduate school to learn how to make a living.” One could interpret that message as a plug for grad school (I, for one, who love to learn how to make a living), but I think it’s the first part of this expression that’s important: Williams can teach you how to live.
photo of The Whitney via Facebook