By Lindsey Stoll
Editors’ note: This month we are featuring a variety of perspectives on the important work that the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) does in our community and highlighting the contributions of USF Museum Studies alumni and interns to that work. For this post, we are grateful to Lindsey Stoll (MA, 2016) who served in the dual role of Public Programs Coordinator and the Volunteer Coordinator for CJM last year. Below, Lindsey introduces us to CJM, her work there over the past year, and her vision for what museums can accomplish in and for our communities. Lindsey recently accepted the position of Special Events Coordinator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. — museumstudiesblog
USF Museum Studies Blog: Tell us something about The Contemporary Jewish Museum.
Lindsey: The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) is a contemporary art museum located in downtown San Francisco. The museum is a non-collecting museum, meaning it does not have a permanent collection. As a non-collecting museum, we are able to show a wide variety of exhibitions and provide visitors with a new show approximately every 4-5 months. The CJM’s mission is to make the diversity of the Jewish experience relevant to a twenty-first century audience, and we do this through innovative exhibitions and programs that educate, challenge, and inspire. We have a wide array of exhibitions that focus on all types of contemporary art and artists. For example, we’ve had exhibitions that showcase Roz Chast, Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Winehouse, but we also curate group shows, such as Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid, where we invite local artists to create works inspired by a Jewish theme, idea, or topic.
USF Museum Studies Blog: What is your role at the CJM and how do you believe it advances the mission?
Lindsey: I actually have two roles at the CJM. I am the Public Programs Coordinator and the Volunteer Coordinator. As the Public Programs Coordinator, my role is to provide logistical support for all the public programs held at the museum. I am also responsible for coming up with creative programs for our visitors that relate to our exhibitions and mission. At the CJM, Public Programs are events designed for our adult visitors. Examples of programs we put on include artist talks, panel discussions, film screenings, night life events, and performances. We are constantly pushing the boundaries of what a program can be at the museum and how we can create new experiences for our visitors. I think my work in public programs allows me advance the museum’s mission in a very direct way. Through programming we make the Jewish experience relevant for our visitors in new and unexpected ways that challenge their perceptions of a museum experience can be.
As the Volunteer Coordinator I am responsible for interviewing, managing, and scheduling all of the museum’s volunteers. Volunteers are a vital part of the museum and we truly value their time, energy, and dedication to the museum. I have some volunteers who have been here since the museum opened in this location ten years ago, and it’s amazing to see how they are still so involved after all these years. In my role as the Volunteer Coordinator I try to match my volunteers with tasks that fit their interests and offer them meaningful ways to participate in the museum. Our volunteers help out at almost all of our events and programs, and they are great advocates for helping us further our mission.
USF Museum Studies Blog: What is a fun project that you’ve worked on in the past year?
Lindsey: This past year I worked on creating a drop-in drawing program at the Museum. The CJM has a goal of activating our admission free spaces (such as the lobby) as a way to engage the public. As part of this initiative, I was given the opportunity to create a program titled “Drop-In Drawing: Lines, Intersections, and Cubes,” which gives visitors the opportunity to explore the museum’s unique architecture through drawing. I worked with a fabulous museum educator, Jen Ewing, on this project, and we came up with various topics that relate to our building. The program was offered every Tuesday in October at lunch time, giving people the option to drop in and take a break from their work week to relax and refocus through the act of drawing. In the end, the program was very successful and some visitors came by every week to learn a new skill or to simply hang out in the museum. Since the program was such a success we’ve decided to bring it back this spring!
USF Museum Studies Blog: How did the experience of writing your master’s capstone help inform the way you approach your work?
Lindsey: For my capstone, I created a hypothetical museum council at the Contemporary Jewish Museum for teens who speak English as their second language. Writing my capstone informed the way I approach my work in a couple of different ways. The most direct way is that I had the opportunity to assist my co-worker in reorganizing the CJM’s Teen Council. The Teen Council was already in place here at the museum, but we brainstormed new ideas to provide teen volunteers with a more meaningful and relevant experience. For example, we invite our teen council to all of our teen programs (poetry workshops, art-making events, etc.) and ask them to provide feedback regarding their experience.
My capstone gave me the organizational skills necessary to work on detailed and logistic heavy programs. A lot of what I do revolves around details, and the planning and scheduling skills I learned while writing my capstone are used every day in my work.
USF Museum Studies Blog: How did your other studies at USF contribute to your career growth?
Lindsey: My courses at USF provided me with a wide variety of knowledge of how the museum field functions. I think it’s so important to learn about all departments in a museum in order to fully figure out what field you are interested in working. In curatorial practicum class I actually helped design a community day program for our exhibit at the Thatcher Gallery. I didn’t know it at the time, but a lot of the tasks I performed in that course are almost exactly what I do on a daily basis in my current role at the CJM. By being able to learn about different museum fields such as curatorial, collections management, and education, I felt that I really knew that programming was the right fit for me once I graduated.
USF Museum Studies Blog: What advice would you have for people who want to work in the museum field?
Lindsey: Broaden your horizons and try out a couple of different types of internships to find out where you want to be in the museum world. I think a lot of times people pigeon-hole themselves into the field they think they belong in and don’t give other areas of a museum a chance. I worked in a number of different departments (curatorial, education, and public programs) in different museums, and by doing so I realized where I wanted to be and where my skills fit in the most. Keep your options open and try new things! Also, visit a lot of museums, talk to a lot of people, and keep in contact with the people you meet along the way.
For more information on the upcoming collaboration between CJM and USF, click here.
For more information on University of San Francisco Museum Studies, click here.