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A Pandemic Pivot
By: Elizabeth Maske
Give me Frank Lloyd Wright in 1931. By then, his home had burned twice, he lost the first love of his life, and he was slotted to be cataloged as obsolete. After reading a review of MoMA’s International Show in the New York Times, Wright said, “I learn that I am there, not because I count, but because I am historical.” Wright later came back with his greatest legacy, the Fellowship (1932), followed by Fallingwater (1936), Jacobs I (1937), SC Johnson Wax Headquarters (1939), Wingspread (1939), and the Guggenheim (1959). Wright’s story of continual perseverance through personal tragedy and his commitment to creative growth is the story I took away from my visit to Taliesin in 2019. I left wanting to stay connected to this place, with hopes that some of its magic might rub off on me. I found this connection through volunteering.
Volunteering at Taliesin is an incredible way to learn new skills while sharpening existing ones. Last summer, I interviewed for the Google Analytics volunteer position with Taliesin Preservation’s communication manager, Aron Meudt-Thering, and this opportunity led to many others. Soon I was helping with the e-newsletter, submitting events to different media outlets, editing surveys, and writing a sample press release. In addition to learning about the multiple responsibilities of a communications department, I felt fortunate to learn more about the inner facets of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Oftentimes, cultural nonprofits can be exclusive environments where knowledge is safeguarded, as jobs are few and far between. It was refreshing to enter a space where, even as a volunteer, I was given the agency to utilize my creativity and receive professional guidance to develop. Volunteer positions at Taliesin Preservation provide valuable experience and differ from the typical data-entry opportunities that often saturate the arts and culture world. Volunteers here not only leave with a great name to add to their resume but professional experience to match.
Today arts and culture positions require a certain level of proficiency or certification with specific programs, and learning these systems can be difficult— they typically require course fees, pay-per-month subscriptions, or access to substantial data sources. Through volunteering, I had access to learn new project management, email marketing, graphic design, and data analytics software outside of a test environment. By October of the same year, I was proficient in several programs and had a portfolio of my work to take with me.
Volunteering provided the hands-on experience that I needed to build confidence, grow in my career, and pivot during a pandemic. In my case, it also led to a job that I love. I now work at Taliesin Preservation as a communication coordinator, where I utilize many of the skills I learned as a volunteer. I create, edit, and schedule content for Taliesin’s blog and social media accounts, develop the newsletters, track performance metrics, organize data, refresh and restructure content, and continue to work with a fantastic group of communications volunteers. For those looking to find a position at Taliesin, volunteering is a great place to start.