USF's Museum Blog

Development and Strategic Projects at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

by Angela Gala        

Editor’s Note:  This month, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the dynamic Herzog and De Meuron building that has transformed the deYoung Museum in San Francisco into a world-class destination. USF students, faculty and trustees are proud of our longstanding partnerships with the deYoung. For the next three weeks, we will share the experiences of museum studies graduate students who were fortunate to be part of the museum this summer.  Our first contribution is by Angela Gala.

Angela Gala on the top floor of the deYoung Museum overlooking USF.

Angela Gala on the top floor of the deYoung Museum overlooking USF.

Among the many noteworthy aspects of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park), is its status as the largest public arts institution in the city of San Francisco.

The mission of the museums thus is necessarily big and bold: to extend and enhance public service in the arts, to provide its community and region with high quality exhibitions, programs, education and outreach, and to care for San Francisco’s esteemed art collection.

angelaimage1After volunteering at the museums in many capacities for two years, I finally started my internship in mid-May within the Development and the Strategic Projects departments, alternating every 3 weeks between the two departments. Being my first time working for a large institution, I had to get used at associating every person with a specific role, since the organizations I worked for in the past were more informal in terms of tasks and responsibilities that pertained to each person.

Dividing my time between two departments was a new experience for me. I had two supervisors: Pam Earing (Associate Director of Individual Giving) for Development, and Carrie Cottini (Assistant Events Manager) for Strategic Projects. Two departments, two supervisors, different projects to work on, pulled me in different directions: the seriousness of development, the optimism of strategic projects, the ways all of the pieces of a large puzzle try to fit together.

For my projects, I conducted a lot of research: donor and prospect research, planned giving research, and research on museum support groups across the country. During the first three weeks I worked in Development on two projects: the Friends of New Art (FONA) project and the creation of a look book of major donors. I also researched a dozen of young professionals support groups in different art museums across the United States and, after comparing ArtPoint (FAMSF’s young professionals support group) to like-organizations in comparable museums, I organized my findings into a Power Point to help the group’s board to take active steps and improve ArtPoint’s positioning in the museum and beyond. These experiences have helped me frame the research for my capstone project which focuses on how art museums can use new technology tools and social media to conduct better prospect research.

Atop the Education Tower at the deYoung.

Atop the Education Tower at the deYoung.

I also participated in the “Development Day.” on June 22nd, an initiative that took place at SF Jazz; everyone in our team had to pick a breakout session, among many: Major Gifts (restricted and >$10K annual gifts), which is the one I attended. I enjoyed hearing experts in the field talk about their jobs and the challenges they face. The staff at the deYoung is very committed to professional development and I was honored that they supported and advocated to NextGen Arts so I could receive a scholarship to scholarship to attend the international conference on future of museums in Indianapolis. As part of the large FAMSF family, I attended the departments’ weekly meetings, and that is when I mostly practiced my observational skills, trying to be empathetic and catching the “atmosphere of the room.”


In the deYoung Sculpture Garden: Apple (2005) by Gustav Kraitz, Ulla Kraitz

And when those moments of information and organizational overload seeped in, especially on Friday afternoons, I grabbed a cup of coffee, took a walk outside in the sculpture garden, and breathed deeply, oxygenating my brain with the power of art.

For more information on USF’s Museum Studies program, click here.

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