**Become a member of The Art Deco Society of New York at www.artdeco.org. With over 25 events per year, ADSNY is an active cultural and social non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating architecture, decorative arts, fashion, and music from the 1920s and 30s! I look forward to seeing you at the next event!**

04 May 2011

Volunteering Is Good For The Soul, and Preservation

I had a ton going on in my daily life when I first moved to New York three years ago. Starting a graduate program, working full-time, finding a place (more like places) to live, and developing a social circle were my top priorities. Although I am now settled in the East Village, work full-time, and since completed my Masters degree and have a great group of friends, there still never seems to be enough time in the day. I barely see my girlfriends each week and if so it's for a quick drink, my boyfriend and I are bound to a tight schedule given our different working hours and instead of 40 hour work weeks, extra hours always seem to creep in for deadlines or big meetings. There are some activities I have given up altogether (my gym membership lapsed six months ago and I do not foresee renewing it anytime soon) and others I do not dare begin for fear of not having enough time to complete them (sewing school and night-time courses in interior design). Yet, I have figured out a way, despite the madness of a full day or week, to combine my passion for art, architecture and preservation with positive contributions that have helped me and my community. The secret: volunteering!

Volunteering is a perfect way to get acquainted with like-minded people who share the same passions. In addition, it presents the opportunity to make new friends and business connections. You might be thinking to yourself: why would I choose volunteering over exercise or professional courses to help me develop stronger skill sets? These are perfectly legitimate questions. Here are my answers--you might be surprised:

1) Volunteering is a resume-builder 
For nearly two years I have been a volunteer board member for the Society of Architectural Historians--NYC Metro Chapter. I am the official Treasurer for the group and carry all fiscal responsibility including depositing membership checks and tracking expenses. This is one of my greater time commitments and I probably spend 16 hours/month working with them. As of January this year, I was also elected to develop the monthly newsletter which contains a series of events across NYC in relation to architectural history. Not only do I provide our members with a list of lectures, exhibitions and events, but it's also my perk as I can schedule my calendar weeks in advance for those which I plan to attend. When I have gone on job interviews, the first thing I am asked about is my position with the society and how it has helped me hone my financial skills. Working with a non-profit is different than managing the money of a for-profit and these are nuances employers notice and value.

2) Make connections
During graduate school I interned with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) as a research assistant whose responsibility was to survey a block of the East Village for a larger historic designation nomination report. I was able to earn credit for school, learn about my neighborhood, and meet a number of individuals who I can turn to for questions and references. To this day, my internship supervisor is still a dear friend who has helped me understand more about preservation. She has graciously written me references for job applications as well as study tours and I consider her one of my most valuable connections in New York City. After my internship was completed, I stayed on board with GVSHP and now volunteer when I can. Whether I am helping set up a lecture or stuffing envelopes for a fundraiser, I am involved in the process of running non-profit programs. These commitments are usually no longer than one or two hours and I volunteer according to my own schedule. It's a win-win situation for both parties.

3) Exercise
This past Sunday I volunteered for the GVSHP annual house tour. I was stationed in one of the homes for two hours making sure the flow of traffic was not concentrated for too long in one space and that each visitor maintained respect for the owner's home. However, after my shift I was also able to view the rest of the 8 amazing homes owned by art collectors, designers, and other elite residents in both Greenwich Village and West Village. Because it was a house tour organized by GVSHP, the focus was preservation of the historic structures as well as extraordinary renovations conceived by the owners. So, I was also able to learn from the event and take home some ideas for my own space and research. The distance between the homes was not too far, but it gave me the opportunity to traverse 20+ blocks on one of the warmest days NYC has seen to date this Spring. Killing two birds with one stone, I was able to score a free house tour worth $150/ticket and get a bit of exercise outdoors which I would have otherwise paid for to do indoors. This is truly a wonderful event and I urge anyone who is interested in architectural preservation and real estate in general to attend next year. You might want to see if they need any volunteers!

4) Learn something new
I am also a volunteer board member of the Art Deco Society of New York. Although most of the events are coordinated by the president and they already have a seasoned treasurer, I am able to assist with revamping the website and look for grant opportunities. I have never written a grant before, but I am learning more and more each day as I continue to research and apply for grants for ADSNY. I had a friend install the Adobe Software Suite on my computer and in my spare time I fiddle around with Illustrator and InDesign trying to develop a new logo for the society. So, while I am not exactly honing my sewing skills, I am learning valuable computer programs that I might be able to use in the future for other volunteer posts or for paid jobs. And I don't have to pay for classes!

5) Land a new job
Although this example happened a few years ago, it is a testament to the power of volunteering. When I still lived in Los Angeles I had a bleak job as an analyst at a housing company. The position had nothing to do with anything I was interested in so I decided to volunteer at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on the weekends in order to fill the void. Week after week I lead group tours and attended art training sessions and became well acquainted with the volunteer manager. When a position for a financial analyst posted on the museum's website, a fellow volunteer suggested I apply. Not only did my volunteer coordinator write me a glowing reference, I also landed the job on my first interview! It was the beginning of my career in the arts and I must say one of the smartest (and luckiest) career moves to date.

Go out and volunteer right away! You will not only be helping your community further its goals for preservation and cultural advancement, but you will also benefit from the time your spare in more ways than one!

1 comment:

  1. JJ-
    Just found your blog via an away message I randomly scanned. What an amazing resource! You are forever my inspiration for seizing the day. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, wit, and energy with the world. Wishing you the best and sending lots of love.