Before the start of my public relations internship with the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, I believed my experience would involve predetermined tasks that all interns were to carry out. After my first day, however, I quickly learned to toss out all of my forethoughts. The Arts Council redefined the concept of communication in the work environment and showed me that even official work can be carried out with genuine emotion and respect for personal identity.
My internship was custom designed to me and taught me useful skills I could apply in the future. Whether I was having lunch with a public relations expert, or interviewing a local artist, I never left an interaction without insightful knowledge or useful advice. Building personal relationships with individuals, and growing my writing ability, was the basis of my summer experience and one that I truly believe will better my chances of succeeding in life after college.
The art of the interview
The success I achieved while working with the Arts Council was thanks to the spectacular people I met throughout the summer. Ivan Iler, a Lansing metal artist, told me his story of how he found his passion through art, which stemmed from his skill with metalworking. While interviewing Ivan, it became apparent that he absolutely loved the process of creating art, and he uses that passion to continuously improve year after year. I left the interview mesmerized by the fact that some people do have the opportunity to make a living doing the things they truly love, and that idea alone will stick with me in the future. I soon found that each interaction I participated in, granted me more than just a check mark aside the task I needed to accomplish next.
Mid June, I had the pleasure of interviewing another Lansing artist by the name of Matthew Mulford. Matthew is a Jack-of-all-trades in the art community, practicing drawing, painting, scratchboard print and photography all in the comfort of his own personal gallery and studio Peculiar Perspectives. During a leisurely interview, I learned that Matthew takes great pride in his many different forms of artistic expression. Whether it be drawing detailed animals, painting vibrant starscapes or etching intricate prints on graphite paper, Matthew puts in time and effort to make sure each one of his pieces is complete in his eyes. Matthew taught me that an artist or creative isn't just restricted to one medium, rather, they can excel in a multitude with motivation and practice, a lesson that I believe can be applied to many walks of life aside from art.
Advice from a pro
One of the final pieces of advice I took note of during my internship came from public relations expert, Bob Hoffman of Wharton Center for Performing Arts. While having a sit-down lunch meeting, Bob told me about the importance of personal relationships. Although I value and cherish my personal relationships, I never thought of the importance of forging strong genuine bonds with people I interact with for the sake of business. Bob stressed to me that public relations success in the workplace is built off of trust and friendship, which he demonstrates by sending a thank-you card after every meeting. Every person that Bob interacts with receives a card, no matter how brief or how casual the interaction is. I found this to be the pinnacle of what good communication looks like in the workplace and a lesson that I will take after while continuing down the communication path of work.
Honing my style
All of the information I obtained was funneled into my writing pieces, which I completed throughout the summer. Before I started at the Arts Council, my writing style and voice sounded the same throughout all of my works. However, after submitting pieces to different journals and blogs, I learned to write to the audience and the publication. With the help of my supervisors, I not only learned ways to make my pieces acceptable to specific websites but was also taught useful skills that improved my writing. This resulted in several of my pieces being published through both website and magazine, a goal I would not have accomplished before I started this opportunity.
Forging a path
As my time at the Arts Council comes to a close, I recognize the major aspects that made this experience everything I wanted it to be and more. By interacting and gathering information from professionals, I was able to understand what a day in a communications-oriented job would feel like instead of just reading about it in a college textbook. Most importantly, I was discovering that I genuinely enjoy communications work. Making this realization allows me to walk into my final year of college with my head held high knowing I can fit into my selected field. The Arts Council allowed me to find the answers I needed at this point in my life and gave me a skill set to better myself in the coming years, to which I am incredibly thankful.