It is incredible to think that we have reached the last week of the program already. Beginning my final week at work at the gallery is surreal and quite sad. This has been an incredibly formative few weeks from both a professional and personal standpoint. One of the aspects of this experience that I cherish the most is how it introduced me to new ways to approach the workplace and work related tasks. Through this, I have learned not about different goals and values, but how to adapt to them and function in a culturally distinct environment than what I am accustomed to. I particularly appreciate what I have learned regarding the ambiguity of the term “success” and how it may be defined.
I find that I have encountered more workplace culture differences than I was expecting. I was expecting communication styles to be different, and I was prepared to face these situations. What I have found the most difficult to adjust to have been the different views of productivity, pacing. During the first few weeks of my time at the gallery I was definitely holding onto ingrained values from prior experiences, ones that prioritized efficiency and productivity. I learned very quickly through observing those around me, that these values were not so much the case here. Instead, the gallery values detail, precision and care. More often than not, deadlines or estimated finish dates are flexible if it means the outcome is more thorough. Furthermore, working on one project and giving it your best effort is prioritized over getting work done as quickly as possible. This was a larger change to my work ethic than I was expecting, one that I have now come to value greatly.
An incredibly important factor in the gallery’s success is creating a collaborative environment, which fosters communication and builds bonds between individuals of the art community and the gallery. I have noticed that having strong interpersonal skills are incredibly important in the arts world, as they are necessary for the networking the gallery relies on. I have noticed that approaching meetings, such as with artists or collectors, in a warm and casual way (though with a noticeable level of respect) is the preferred tone my supervisors want to set. Having casual personal conversation over a coffee or lunch is seen as a great way to build trust, strengthening the professional bonds. Establishing these relationships is something that is seen as a triumph at the gallery.
I think these values set the tone for how “success” is defined here at the gallery, and maybe even in a larger cultural context. The gallery measures success by ensuring it publishes work of great quality, be it an exhibition catalog, social media posts or press releases. Furthermore, it is putting in energy into building a brand with a unique trademark, often meaning slowing the pace of work to focus on detail. It is also building strong relationships between the company, artists and clients. From these observations, I have gathered that success here is defined by quality, dedication and commitment to craft.