A Day With the Guggenheim's Ashley Mendelsohn
7:00am: Regular hours at the museum start at 10am, but I like to wake up early to get my brain working before I head to the office. Admittedly, most mornings start with scrolling through Twitter, bookmarking articles to read on the commute. My true morning ritual is listening to The Daily, the New York Times podcast. It’s become such a routine for me that I feel like only Michael Barbaro's voice can get me out of bed.
7:30am: While getting ready, I throw on another podcast, perhaps It’s been a minute with Sam Sanders or Call Your Girlfriend. I likely change my outfit several times while drinking coffee and cooking breakfast. Lately I’ve been making bodega-style egg sandwiches ever since Deb Perelman put the recipe up on Smitten Kitchen. Hot tip: extra chives.
8:30am: I live in the Upper East Side, but the Guggenheim offices are not in the museum, so most days I commute via the second avenue subway down to the financial district. Studio Gang designed our offices which take up a full floor plate in One Liberty Plaza, a great SOM building. Several colleagues are on the same train, so I tend to run into people on the way down to work. I like to get to the office when it’s a little empty, so I can prepare for 10am meetings and get settled. I’m working closely with several people who are based in Europe, so I tend to have a full email inbox every morning.
10:00am: Most days start with an interdepartmental meeting. I’m working on an exhibition that opens in 2020, so we have a weekly team meeting with staff from exhibition management, exhibition design, registrar, facilities, multimedia, art handling, fabrication and construction. I work closely with departments across the institution to ensure that curatorial intentions and content are both understood and translated consistently across platforms, from contracts and development pitches to press releases and education initiatives. Everyone on my exhibition team is incredibly talented, they find ways to realize seemingly impossible feats. I learn so much from them each day.
12:30pm: I’ve gotten into a good routine with meal prepping on Sunday nights, so I eat a packed lunch each day. Studio Gang designed a canteen in our office, which has really been a game changer for my daily mental health. Whenever possible I try to take a full hour and eat with friends.
2:00pm: Often I commute midday to the museum for meetings, which is a quick trip on the 4 or 5 train. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, so I’ve been particularly busy working with colleagues across the institution to conceive of a cohesive approach to the celebration that will engage visitors in fresh ways. This has involved defining goals and rethinking some of our materials: from the building audio guide and retail products to the social media strategy. This year I launched a monthly instagram story architecture series with our Digital Marketing Manager Harineta Rigatos. It’s been really fun to storyboard and think about quick, digestible tidbits that I can share about the building.
4:00pm: I very rarely give public tours of the building, but recently I’ve been trying to find time to give staff tours, particularly to departments that are public facing. I use these tours to share with my colleagues, but also to learn from them. Everyone has a really unique personal relationship with the building, from working in it daily interfacing with visitors, to physically constructing temporary exhibition walls, pedestals and vitrines. I love how distinctly different the questions are from each department, every tour ends up sending me on a new archive sleuthing mission.
6:30pm: I’ve worked many late nights at the museum, but I’m not the kind of person who works long hours unless it’s necessary. I know that the months leading up to February 2020 when Countryside opens will be filled with long days and working on the weekends, so right now I try to maintain a work-life balance. If I made the midday commute, then I have the pleasure to stroll home to my apartment! I typically walk a meandering route and call one of my parents to catch up.
8:00pm: It’s easy to have plans every night of the week in New York. I have friends from work, high school, undergrad, and grad school in the city so most weeknights I’m grabbing dinner and drinks with someone. I also really love to cook and like to host dinner parties whenever possible. These days my specialty is homemade ravioli with lemon zest in the dough. Definitely a crowd pleaser, and a really affordable dinner party that everyone can participate in.
11:30pm: I used to catch up on TV before bed (and I still sometimes do), but I’m making an effort to read more to avoid late night YouTube rabbit holes. Right now I’m reading Real Queer America by Samantha Allen. She traveled around the country gathering stories from the LGBTQ community in red states. These narratives are so rarely told, it’s a really an eye opening and encouraging read.