On The Road
Alumna Darrah Wills offers a behind-the-scenes look at life at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
By Camille LeFevre
|Alumna Darrah Wills (’08) |
April 2012—When Darrah Wills first visited Santa Fe University of Art and Design as a prospective student, her mother immediately told her, “It’s so you.” How right she was. Not only did she graduate in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Arts, she parlayed her senior-year internship at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe into a full-time position as assistant registrar. As an independent artist, she also exhibits her charcoal drawings regionally.
Wills still calls Santa Fe home. But her work at the museum also requires her to travel the world to oversee the transportation, delivery, and exhibition of art from the museum’s permanent collection. Here, she provides a behind-the-scenes look at her career and how Santa Fe University helped make it all possible.
What does your role at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum involve?
Because the museum is a small institution, I help out in many areas. Some of my responsibilities fall under a registrar’s title, which means collection management: Anything that has to do with maintaining and caring for our permanent collection, including storage, insurance, transportation, crating, and inventory. My work is also heavily focused on planning upcoming exhibitions, which involves handling contracts and insurance, as well as crating and shipping art.
I also travel with the art as a courier. This winter I de-installed, transported, and re-installed an exhibition traveling from Rome to Munich. I oversaw the packing, loading, transport, unloading, and unpacking of each piece of art. Before I watch the workers hang and light the show, I look for any damage, which is what an art conservator does; the museum chose me for this role because of my strong interest in conservation.
How did Santa Fe University prepare you for this career?
The critiques during art classes prepared me for navigating the art world and speaking intelligently about art. And my mixed-media degree allowed me to play with film, installation, and photography, all of which provided in-depth preparation for my current work.
What kind of mentorships did you find at Santa Fe University?
One of the best things about Santa Fe is the powerful relationships you develop with teachers. They’re rock stars as artists. Studying with a teacher who has an impressive résumé is a great experience. But they’re also thinking of you constantly, recommending books to read, classes to take, or internships to apply for.
When do you find time to work your own art?
I’m lucky, because people ask me to exhibit at shows and I use that as motivation. I also always have drawings at home that I work on. I could never stop drawing. It’s something I have to do.