My name is Ray Lapinski, I am an advertising student in the art direction track and I am originally from a little town named Oley, PA. This out of the way town is full of the typical things you will find in rural PA including town fairs, cornfields, and lots of cows, like a lot of cows. But one thing unexpected about our little town is a vibrant, professional, and welcoming grassroots community arts center called Clay on Main. When tasked with the job of finding an internship for my major requirements I knew that Philadelphia would be full of stellar places to work and learn, but then Clay on Main published their internship program and I had to take the opportunity, how many people get to intern where they take a short drive down the street and pet a cow? (I did mean it about the cows). So I applied and was taken on as a general communications intern, to help with internal and external communications, marketing efforts, and programming.
Clay on Main offers a variety of programming to the greater rural community of PA including a full professional gallery with 6 exhibitions each year, ceramics, glass and drawing classes, workshops in a variety of artistic and creative fields, and space for professional artists to rent and use. They also house a small but lively music venue called the Half Moon Cafe which hosts live performances, open mic nights, and ukelele jam sessions. Going into my internship I was expecting to work on lots of live programs, events, development of new classes, and hands-on opportunities in the studios and galleries. However, COVID-19 threw a wrench in everyone’s’ plans.
Instead, my time at Clay on Main was spent helping rework their programming to fit new safety requirements. Before COVID-19 they were an organization built heavily on the idea of welcoming everyone with large gallery openings with 100+ people, workshops with 15+ people, and full studios for classes. However, encouraging large crowds with a mass pandemic going on wasn’t the safest option and Clay on Main had to rethink their very strategy on short notice.
Some solutions that we came to as a team included scheduling studio work time for artists and students, spacing out gallery visitors, implementing a strict mask and sanitation policy, and establishing a Youtube series focused on the gallery. Another longterm project I aided in spearheading was the creation of an online forum via Facebook Groups for students, supporters, and members to communicate about their lives, artwork, and experiences amid COVID-19. We also created self-contained art kits for members of local senior centers who were unable to attend in-person workshops.
This experience was certainly different than the one I was expecting from my time at Clay on Main. However, the opportunity to learn through a crisis was one I don’t think I will ever forget. I can take an internship and learn the basics of marketing, social media strategies, and other key factors of the advertising world in the future but completing an internship during a global pandemic gave me experiences I can never replicate. Learning how to adapt programming in a quickly changing world with empathy and vigorous attention to detail was valuable to learn. I and the other wonderful people who work and volunteer for Clay on Main were giving our all to keep the arts alive in Oley, PA, which was truly rewarding.
Also for anyone curious, I didn’t end up petting a cow, but I always made sure to wave to them on my way to work.