September 4, 2015

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

By Matt Ackerman ’18

A group of five people hold welcome signs as a living sculpture on the grounds of the International Sculpture Center in New JerseyWriter. Editor. Videographer. Advertiser. Marketing specialist. Researcher. Movie producer. I never would have thought that a summer internship in the Conference and Events Department at NJ’s International Sculpture Center would give me so many titles to have tasted. And the icing on the cake – I knew not a thing about sculpture beforehand. It just goes to show you that any door can open at Lafayette for someone who seeks a new opportunity.

“Sculpture…hmmm…like The Thinker. Yea, Yea, that’s the guy who sits on a rock and is really concentrating on the grass below with his head on his fist.”

That’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge in the world of sculpture before interning at the International Sculpture Center. But now…try me, just try me. I’ll call out a list of all my new favorites: Antony Gormley. Nancy Rubins. Sheila Hicks, just to name a few.

A sculpture of a man's face and his hand

Last spring, I wanted a new experience – something fresh and interesting to do over the summer, and perhaps put a few writing skills I learned over my freshmen year to use. Having applied with the thought that my chances were slim fresh out of a single year of a college, little did I know that despite my age, I would get the chance to have my writing featured on a professional website. For an aspiring English major, that is incredibly rewarding. And, I was encouraged to think on my feet in territories I have not explored.

My internship demonstrated that sometimes, it doesn’t matter what academic background from which one may come in a new position. With a willingness to search and learn, you’re as good as gold, or maybe a golden sculpture in my case. However, the greatest lesson I learned over the summer was that many times, a new venture doesn’t always have a map. At times, you just have to “figure it out.”

Each year, the Conference and Events Department of the ISC plans a symposium on new innovations in sculpture for 300+ enthusiasts. In the field, as my supervisor said, sometimes we just have to “figure stuff out.” I was puzzled at first….what did she mean?

A young man and young woman work together at a computer terminal

I soon discovered that getting comfortable with being uncomfortable when handed an unfamiliar project is a good lesson. From researching art cultures of entire cities for future conference sites, to producing an online movie from a visiting artist lecture. Writing advertising text for their website and providing background information to launch the sculpture panel selection process…it was all part of my job. An art symposium is no easy puzzle to put together. “And, if you don’t know how to get started…it’s ok,” she said. “Because the hardest part of starting is finding a direction.”

At the ISC, I was constantly encouraged to be confident in choosing a research direction for each project – even if I eventually found I needed to try over again.

“How could anyone sum up an entire city in a packet!? Research who? I’ve never produced a film. You want me to enhance the sound on it? Um…Ok! Sure thing!”

Trees form an arch above a road as a property entrance at the International Sculpture Center in New Jersey

And with determination, you can succeed at anything passed onto your project folder – even when a specific method of attack is not provided. The most rewarding projects for me were certainly the ones I just had to figure out how to complete on my own. While I did my work, I began to unravel a field of art I had never really sunk my teeth into. And now, I see I’ve been missing out.

The Career Services summer internship stipend enabled me to travel to the location where I learned so much, and without the encouragement of my counselor in the Career Services office and my friends, I never would have pushed myself to spend time in a field I didn’t know the first thing about. I thought, “Why not?”

It’s something like “Cur non,” as I’ve heard up on the hill.

Check out some of my work at www.sculpture.org/az2015/phoenix and www.sculpture.org/isconnects/gfs-june17-2015.shtml.

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1 Comment

  1. Love this: “I soon discovered that getting comfortable with being uncomfortable when handed an unfamiliar project is a good lesson.” Great job, Matt!

    says Amy Blythe
    September 10, 2015 at 10:41 am
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