Hi there, my name is Maria N. Ramirez and this past winter, I was an intern at The Kitchen. A non-profit, multi-disciplinary art and performance space located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.
Working alongside and learning from all of the many amazing people at The Kitchen really was the highlight of my time in NYC. I especially want to thank Rayna Holmes, Lauren Cronk and Alison Burstein for trusting me with completing tasks that I now see as valuable skills. Skills which I will take with me as I continue forward on my professional career.
So let me tell you a little bit about what I did during my time at The Kitchen…
I spent the first half of my internship immersed in research. The Kitchen’s 2020 Spring Gala was coming up in a few short months (Mission 1) and I was tasked with gathering information on the one and only, Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the iconic rock band, Blondie. She was one of the honorees alongside influential contemporary artist, Cindy Sherman.
Both of which found fame in NYC but are originally from New Jersey. I found it it to be a really cool fact, considering that I too, grew up on the other side of the river and one day aspire to be just as successful as they are in their respective fields.
I know two things for certain after completing this task for The Kitchen. (1) I know a whole lot of facts about Debbie Harry and (2) Research is key. One must know the logistics of things well in advance and this applies to almost everything in life.
Logging all of my findings into a shared Google Sheet that detailed every aspect of the 2020 Spring Gala planning process, I often stumbled across iconic names like those of Madonna and Joan Jett on the proposed guest list. I had never seen so many iconic names on an invite list for an event that I helped create, even by the likes of doing something as small as gathering information on the internet or reaching out to people. I have to admit it was such of a surreal feeling.
I remember feeling really included by the team at The Kitchen, especially whenever we had mandatory staff meetings regarding the Spring Gala. We’d sit around the conference table in the middle of the office and I’d listen to everyone as they discussed changes in ticket prices, guest list confirmations, conflicts of schedule, a fundraising event at the home of a prestigious artist living in the city and pieces of art that could be potentially be auctioned off during the main event.
Throughout the day, I would find myself exploring the online archives of The Kitchen. I liked looking through the black and white photographs, original scripts, artist contracts from the 1990s and the aesthetic posters of past shows. I got to see so much amazing content that it still relevant to this day.
I spent the second half of my internship sending out emails to prospective companies in or around the New York area, like Sephora, Best Bees Company, Joes Coffee etc. (Mission 2) In these emails, I asked for free donations of product for the guest goodie bags for the Spring Gala.
Requesting free stuff from a company is something that I had never done before, so this was definitely a first for me. There were many no’s along the way but I do remember getting really excited when a company would write back and say YES, what type of product are you interested in, how many units do you need and when would you need them by?
Around this same time, I made a multilingual poster for Liberty High School on Adobe InDesign, a photo editing software that I wasn’t completely familiar with at the time but ended up navigating pretty smoothly. I also helped clean up the hour long video footage of a L.A.B. event filmed two weeks prior on Adobe Audition.
Another great aspect of my internship involved running errands across the city – Like that one time I jumped on crowded subway train headed to the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan with a fragile poster from the 1980’s in tow…
I loved running errands for The Kitchen. Whether I was on my way to drop off a load of equipment at another art gallery or a poster at a print shop, picking up five poster boards and architecture plans from a couple of blocks away or even dropping off a borrowed book at the Whitney Museum of American Art – I always saw it as a new adventure.
On my lunch breaks, I would often find myself wandering the streets of Chelsea.
Open to all the sights and sounds of a mid-afternoon stroll – I began to notice witty stickers, spray paint tags and murals (one and alike), broken mirror collages, quotes etc. decorating every other available brick wall, metal door, mailbox and pole in the area. It really spoke to the artistic spirit that exists in this area.
Around 4pm, from the one window in the office, I would watch the changing of the lights. A cloak of darkness would slip over the city skyline from the East. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before – the 30 Hudson Yards Tower in the distance would come to life with a grand display of soft yellow lights in a matter of minutes.
P.S. If you’re looking for free wine and/or seltzer water with a side of inspiration. Go to your nearest Art Gallery.
One evening in January, I helped out with the L.A.B. event that I mentioned earlier. I was surprised to see just how many boxes of red and white wine were stored in a corner of the office for these type of events. I had never opened a bottle of wine prior to the event, so I learned something new that night, many thanks to Rayna for teaching me!
During the event, I made sure to pay close attention to all of the artists as they each presented their works of art in relation to the set theme – Regeneration. I helped out by pouring wine and passing a microphone around the room during the questions portion of the night. Interestingly enough, one artist used virtual waste in the form of old music videos to create something entirely new (I had no idea digital waste was a thing prior to this event) and another artist used old yearbooks and paintings.
At that moment in time, I was learning from real life working artists. I left that night asking myself similar questions like, how can I create something beautiful through regeneration? I had thoughts of building chapel-like stained glass rooms all over the Antioch College campus out of recycled glass products. They would be places where students could retreat to meditate, think, breathe, cry – anything. I could collect cardboard boxes, a knife, a bucket of heavy duty glue and gray paint. Resulting in the creation of vintage inspired interior design pieces that I could decorate student space/common rooms with back on campus. There were just so many possibilities that I could end up exploring..
My Light Bulb Moment
It happened at the opening night of the show performance Queens Row by Richard Maxwell.
A light turned on and a middle aged woman walked to the center of the stage. She spoke about the loss of a son and a world that now felt all so foreign. Although there were fifty of us in the room at that very moment time, I felt as though I was all of sudden in a dream in HD and she was speaking directly to me. A few seconds later, she walked out of the room and the lights cut off again.
A moment later, our view was then redirected to the second tier of the room where the shadow of a young woman now stood in front of a lone window. You could hear the faint sounds of the city ever so clearly. Strange, it was the same sound that I, like many other New Yorkers unconsciously tune out with misplaced thoughts or Spotify playlists and for some reason, right now, it sounded hauntingly beautiful.
I took note of the clever scene transitions that I was witnessing, how the use of natural and artificial lights played a big part in moving the storyline forward. Before we knew it, the lights cut off again and the shadow woman began to walk into the darkness of the room, her footsteps shuffling ever so close but her location still unidentifiable.
At this point in the performance, I am on the edge of my seat. Anticipation is building up in my chest and my brain is running a million miles an hour. Where is she? Is she good or evil? Are we about to experience a jump scare? This silence is killing me. What is the significance of her disappearing?
She soon comes into the light. She looks like she has just walked straight of the 80’s, dressed in a colorful shoulder pad sweater and disheveled hair. She begins to speak in gibberish, my brain struggles to keep up with what she is trying to tell the audience. I want to know. She begins to speak faster and more emotionally and then, seemingly out of nowhere a black cloud begins to swirl over her being. I attributed it to the physical manifestation of depression. I was absolutely mesmerized. I had never experienced something like this before, it was just so artistically moving.
At the end of night, I got to meet the actresses and other people from the audience and asked them about what they thought it meant – we all had different answers. As I walked home that night, I called up my good friend back in Ohio and began crying out of pure happiness. I had just witnessed the very thing that I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to move people through performance. I want to use my imagination and the tools of engineering to create experiences. I want to tell stories through visually impacting scenes and I know that I am perfectly capable of doing it.
The next day, I felt really inspired to create. So I quickly wrote up a script for a show performance that I envisioned in my mind. I want to perform it live whenever we all get back to Antioch College. I named it Holy Smokes. I’m attaching a link to a trailer I produced for it down below.
Looking back, I’m going to miss New York. I’m going to miss speed walking down londonesque cobblestone streets, standing at the crosswalk with six other strangers impatiently waiting for the light to change, hearing the roar of the next incoming train at the 23rd station, watching the bright LED lights of the bodegas and cinemas coming to life all at the same time, catching a crowded F train to 75th street after a long day of work, walking down the fairy lit streets of downtown Forest Hills, meeting strangers on that bus that I didn’t plan on taking but did anyways.. these are all memories that I will carry with me always.