This summer I participated in the Summer of Service program provided by the LILAC office (The Leadership, Innovation, and Liberal Arts Center at Bryn Mawr). My field placement was at the Slought Foundation in West Philly, which is a nonprofit organization that aims to create dialogue surrounding cultural and sociopolitical change both locally and globally. The foundation displays work from artists from both Philadelphia and around the world, in addition to producing their own publications. The founder of the organization has also launched several other initiatives that are connected to the foundation, such as the Health Ecologies Lab, which focuses on the impact of social systems on the health of individuals and communities.
Before I began working at Slought, I was daunted by the idea of joining their team as my potential responsibilities at the center did not seem very straightforward. After about three days at Slought I realized why. Slought does not function in the same way that most nonprofits do in that the organization’s work comes in the form of long-term and usually unrelated projects, which causes the focus and needs of the organization to constantly be in flux. The nonprofit also supports a extremely small staff. There were only four people working there during the summer including myself, and many were traveling while I was at the center.
The bulk of my work at the center focused on two long-term projects. The first project I began work on was titled On the Other Side of Elsewhere, a two-year long cultural exchange that engages civic institutions in the former Eastern bloc. When I began work on the project, during the first week of my internship, my supervisor was traveling and I was introduced to the center by a research fellow. We worked in close collaboration for the first week of my internship and were able to compile a 12-page bibliography for the project. Though it might sound strange, I am glad that my first introduction to Slought was in the absence of Aaron, the founder of the organization. Working with Tung, the research fellow, afforded me the opportunity to become comfortable with the work that the center does before the beginning of my hectic schedule that accompanied Aaron’s return.
When Aaron returned to Slought we immediately began work on the second project I assisted with at the foundation. The project was titled Photographic Memory, which was an exhibition of archival imagery by Maurice Sorrell, the first Black member of the White House Photographers Association. Some of my fondest memories from working at Slought were made while developing this project. One of the highlights of the project was having the opportunity to work with Stephanie Renee, the curator of the exhibit and Sorrel’s niece. Hearing her discuss the images we displayed added a completely new dimension to the exhibition, as she had personal connections with some of the subjects of the photographs. After returning home from the experience I constantly think back to my time there, and how much I will miss all those I was able to connect with during my time there. Going forward I hope to continue to volunteer at the center when needed and encourage other Bryn Mawr students to take advantage of the wide array of programming that Slought offers during the year.