To continue our series about the departments of the museum, today we are talking to Brad Stevens of the preparation department.
Name: Brad Stevens
Job title: Chief Preparator
Educational background: BFA in Studio Art from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, 2004; MFA in Painting from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK, 2008
Describe what your typical day looks like. The only constant from one day to the next is making sure the museum is in good shape. My department is responsible for the look of the galleries, from changing the lights when they go out to making sure the gallery walls are clean. From there we work on various projects from collection management to preparing for future exhibitions. Every day is a new adventure.
What do you do to prepare a gallery for a new exhibition? Each exhibition requires weeks, if not months, of preparing; it just depends on the size and scope of the exhibition. Usually we begin working with the curators of the exhibition to understand their wants and needs for the finished project. From there we come up with a gallery design by making sketches and then rendering the gallery space into a “virtual gallery” on the computer. The prep department is also responsible for matting and framing the art, if needed. When the time comes to begin the installation, we move the walls into the new configuration based off our virtual gallery, then we patch and paint the gallery walls. Laying out the artwork is the next step; this allows us to make the proper measurements to install the art in the gallery. Final steps include lighting the exhibition and making the labels to identify each piece of work.
What other departments in the museum do you work most closely with? Curatorial, Registration, Facility Manager, and Security
What is it like to work with famous pieces or works by famous artists? What precautions does the museum take to ensure its safety? When I first became an art handler, it was pretty intimidating. You hold in your hand something historically significant, and often times more expensive than you care to know. It can really humble you and, from time to time, make you a bit uncomfortable. The longer I have done this type of work the more eye opening it has become. You have to have a healthy understanding of what you are holding and doing through the whole process. Also, you have to have a great respect for the art you are handling but also the job you are performing. I treat everything I handle with the same respect as I would a Van Gogh or a Picasso. Without going too much into the museum’s precautions and security features, we ensure the safety of the artwork by adhering to proper techniques when the art is being handled. Also, well organized storage areas, secure displays, and plenty of well-trained security personnel.
What is your favorite part of your job? Seeing the finished product of what my team and I have worked so hard on is a pretty amazing feeling. We like to joke that,”we are the silent force behind the museum experience; we could just as easily make you sick by hanging something slightly off.” The three members of the prep team have backgrounds in art, and this job gives us the brainstorming capabilities and creative outlet we all went to school to learn. It also allows us to be surrounded by art all day, everyday. Nothing is better than that.