As I complete my summer internship at the Greater Hartford Arts Council, I wanted to write this post to thank everyone who has allowed me to work alongside them these past few months. I have truly had a blast and found my summer here to be rewarding in many aspects. Coming into the Arts Council, I had a lot of respect for non-profit organizations, but very little knowledge of how they operated behind the scenes. I was very excited to finally be a part of an organization that was clearly in tune with its community and its mission of supporting arts and culture throughout the region. As a political science major, I have always been fascinated by the process in which policies and legislation have an impact on different groups of people, especially the disenfranchised. Being a part of an organization such as the Arts Council has allowed me to better understand how the arts resonate the universal values of culture and community. I have also learned how non-profits manage to sustain themselves while also impacting their communities in a manner that is both efficient and effective. In this sense, I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to work with both the workplace team and the grant manager, Jose Feliciano. I was able to see the process as money came into the organization through workplace campaigns and money went out through different grant programs.
As a student, working is considered to be a very individualistic aspect of life. The grades and level of success I have in school is completely dependent and reflective of no one else but myself. However, when you are a part of an organization that aims to support so many different kinds of organizations throughout a widespread region you begin to realize the importance of team work. I spent a lot of time with the workplace team. Not only did I get to sit next to exceptionally enthusiastic coworkers, I have been given a wide variety of projects that range from stuffing countless brochures to leading my very own arts break activity that is reflective of my own culture. Facilitating the mandala arts break at UTC was by far my favorite project of the summer. It enabled me to utilize my own personality to coordinate an art activity accessible for everyone. I also enjoyed all the arts breaks and receptions I got to be a part of throughout the summer. The workplace campaigns are all very unique in that every campaign had different goals and event requests. The most admirable component of the team was to see first-hand how gracefully my managers handled the various highs and lows of any campaign with endless amounts of humor. Going into other companies and asking employees to donate their time and money for the arts is no easy task. Working as a team and remaining flexible through any situation is a lesson I hope to carry on into the future.
Aside from the workplace, I was also given the opportunity to work alongside Jose who is practically a walking grant guru. Within the first few weeks, I was asked to sit in on an Artscape panel that would go through a list of organizations seeking funds for their programs. My primary task was to take notes during the meeting, but more importantly, I was given the chance to learn how we as an organization relied on a well thought out process to distribute our grant money. I think it is very admirable that we bring in such a diverse and talented group of individuals from the very community we seek to serve. That panel day was reflective of most of my grant related work. It has given me a much greater insight of the organizations we work with and what programs they coordinate to bring art and culture to the many communities of the Greater Hartford region. I was also able to see the connection firsthand by attending a free showing of the Greater Hartford Opera Theater’s “The Old Maid and the Thief” which was sponsored through our 2015 Hartford Events Grants. I will be living in Hartford through the fall semester and know I will always have fun events to attend given all the resources GHAC as to offer. I think it is very cool that we as an organization can recognize and sponsor local talent that caters to all sorts of people. More recently, I have been working on grant data analysis projects which includes a lot of sorting and vetting on excel spreadsheets, but ultimately I am able to see the fiscal impact we have throughout our region. Jose especially has been extremely helpful in explaining the big picture associated with the rows and columns of raw data. We clearly do more than just put a spotlight on local talent; we bring business into the Hartford region that benefits these communities far beyond the arts. The more I learn about the GHAC, the more respect I have for the high-impact work we do as a modestly staffed organization.
That being said, the most rewarding aspect of the summer is being able to work alongside such a unique blend of personalities these past few months. In most companies, employees are encouraged to blend into the grays and blues of professionalism, but the Arts Council embodies a different office culture that balances professionalism with the unique personalities of every employee. Whether it is a fashion blog or a fire mix-tape, everyone has a wide range of interests. From my first team meeting to my luncheon send off, every staff event is always a gathering of energy and endless humor.
I can say with no doubt that working at the Arts Council has taught me many work and life lessons beyond my expectations (for one, I now know U2 is a rock band and not a rapper). Going into my senior year, I am confident that I will be pursuing a career in the non-profit / philanthropy world and know my experience at the Arts Council this summer has played a large role in shaping my career and life decisions.