Ladders, tools, essays, and cameras. These are just a few of the items I observed during my month as a high school intern at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum during the show change period leading up to the opening of The Aldrich’s largest exhibition to date.
In case you don’t know who I am, I’m Soren Covell, a graduating senior at Weston High School, currently interning at The Aldrich as part of my graduation requirement. The Aldrich has always been a part of my life ever since my family and I moved to Fairfield County from Brooklyn when I was just two years old. From attending the summer day camps when I was younger, to being an Aldrich Teen Fellow, and even going to various Aldrich exhibitions throughout this time, I felt like I’d seen almost everything there was to see. However, I’d never been truly behind the scenes. To my surprise, it’s been this past month or so that’s been the most educational to me about how the Museum is run as I’ve witnessed the installation of The Aldrich’s biggest show yet, 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone.
On my first few days on the job, I spent my time getting adjusted to the new faces and the office environment. I worked with Emily Devoe and Gloria Pérez on social media marketing, taking photos and videos of the show change process, as well as interviewing longtime Exhibitions Director Richard Klein for The Aldrich’s Instagram stories.
As days went on and I observed the show change more I began to understand the culture of how things were run here a bit more: controlled chaos. Various artists showcased in the Museum were always in the museum setting up their pieces. Of course there were the usual paintings set up across the Museum, but there were also all sorts of other mixed media pieces like clay beds, moving sculptures, and video pieces that required all sorts of detailed planning to make them work.
One of the most interesting installations to watch were Reeva Potoff’s scrolls. There were about five to ten different people all crammed into one room, helping assemble Reeva’s ten-foot high scrolls on these long carabiners that hung from the ceiling. This required some very high ladders, a scissor lift, a bunch of hands, and of course Reeva’s creative direction. This process was incredibly delicate, requiring everyone to take their shoes off when the art was still laying on the floor in the hopes of not damaging the pieces. Gloria and I hugged a corner in the hopes of getting some good shots of the scene, which was in fact a success. The crew members brought up each scroll, extremely delicately of course, and hung them up one by one. Once they finished Reeva grinned with joy and the rest of the crew looked ready to get to business on the next task with the hard deadline of June 4th, the VIP opening of the exhibit.
Documenting the install has been a really interesting experience. The scene described in the paragraph above was just one of many anecdotes from the days I spent wandering the museum and taking photos. While I had to blend into the background to let everyone do their thing, I also got to meet all sorts of interesting people that helped with the install, as well as the actual artists themselves. I intellectually knew that of course a successful exhibition is hard to put together but now that I’ve actually seen it done I understand it a lot more now. It’s as much about the little details as it is the big picture. It’s almost like a creatively put together team sport.
Before this internship I had no idea the time and effort put into setting up an exhibit at an art museum. I saw the early models of where the art should go, saw the process of the art going up from start to finish, and I got to document the whole process.
By Soren Covell
Top image: Alice Aycock, Clay # 2, 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone (installation view detail), The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, June 6, 2022 to January 8, 2023. Photo: Soren Covell