A big part of my life at Yale is my job at the Yale University Art Gallery (my favorite place on campus, what I talk about 24/7, where I am most days, where I met a lot of my close friends, etc.). I applied for the job the summer before my first semester at Yale, before I even set foot on campus. You may be asking: “Paulina, why did you apply for a job at a place you’ve never been to, let alone know of?”
Well, ever since taking a few art history classes at my community college, I fell in love with looking at art for hours on end, and I couldn’t think of anything better than being surrounded by art and people who loved art as much - if not more - than I did. So, when I received an offer of employment at the visitor services department, I immediately said yes. Every day at the art gallery is different but, here’s a snippet of what I typically get up to during a shift.
Although I absolutely adore my residential college, Pauli Murray, it is arguably the college that is the furthest away from the art gallery. So, I tend to head out at around 10:30am to make sure I get there a bit before my Sunday shift begins at 11:00am.
With many students sleeping in or getting breakfast at the dining halls, my Sunday walk to the gallery has become one of my favorite things to do. Putting my AirPods on and hitting play on my “Happiness” playlist, there’s something about campus when it’s early in the morning (and empty) that’s magical.
Come on, you can’t tell me the sights I see on my way to the gallery aren’t gorgeous!
After swiping in through the staff entrance and putting my things away in a locker, I officially begin my shift at 11:00am (when the gallery also officially opens to visitors). In the first five minutes, we see the “morning rush” of those who were waiting outside to get in. Once I hand them floor plans and give them a quick overview of the gallery, it tends to slow down for a bit. During this time, I catch up with my coworkers and supervisor, chatting about our weekends and what we’ll be up to that upcoming week.
As happens quite regularly during shifts, the phone rings and I pick up answering questions ranging from:
- “Are you open?” “Okay great! When do you close?”
- “Do you have any work by [insert name]?”
- “What’s the parking situation like?”
- “Is photography allowed?”
- “I have some artwork I’d like to donate. What’s the process for that?”
An hour in the gallery being open, I head down to the lower level to stock up on any merchandise the gallery store is low in. Being really careful not to get lost (which has happened an embarrassing amount of times), I make my way through the basement of the gallery - which is home to offices, workshop spaces and classrooms.
A cute little collage featuring my coworkers, our modern and ancient galleries, and the lower levels.
A few hours into my shift, Hilary - my supervisor on Sundays and one of my favorite people - always asks me and my coworkers whether we would like to go grab a coffee or drink. Happily accepting, I quickly make my way across the street to Atticus Bookstore Cafe (an amazing coffee shop, highly recommend!) and grab an iced chai latte.
Once I’m back at the gallery, I continue greeting incoming visitors and helping customers with their purchases at our store. When it’s a bit more quiet, I begin restocking the floor plans at the desk and then grab a few stashes to restock in our upper-levels. Making my way throughout the gallery, I restock and reorganize the floor plan displays, occasionally stopping for a few minutes to chat with security.
After heading back down to the front desk, I greet the gallery’s student guides who are coming in a few minutes before the weekend tours begin at 1:30pm. I direct interested visitors to the tour group area and make sure that the gallery guides have any materials they need.
Preparing to end my shift in 30 minutes, I check the postcard wall and restock any that are low in quality and reorganize the few that have ended up in the wrong spots. I then continue answering any incoming phone calls and directing visitors to the areas or artists they wish to see.
This is just a small portion of the amount of times I’ve talked about the gallery on my social media.
At 2:00pm, I grab my things from my locker, say goodbye to my supervisor and coworkers, and head out through the staff exit. Another day of work at the art gallery, done.
Although it may seem like my work at the gallery can be very repetitive or mundane, for me it isn’t. I always find the gallery an exciting place to be at. I enjoy speaking with visitors who come from various cities, from various countries, or who live a few minutes away. Being in the gallery takes my mind off of the stress and busyness of regular school life. My coworkers have become my friends and the gallery, itself, has become another home for me. As long as I’m a student at Yale, I’ll be at the art gallery almost always.
Big smiles for some of my beautiful art gallery coworkers.