Ginny DeLacey spent time interning for the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC throughout undergrad. Upon leaving Wake, she took a job with the same museum as Development Associate. Now serving as Major Gifts Manager, Ginny speaks to us about her new role, and how she transitioned from the Forest to fundraising.
*Since posting the article, Ginny has moved to Georgetown University where she is the Assistant Director for Board Operations.
DeacLink: Would you mind telling me about what you’re doing at the National Museum of Women in the Arts?
Ginny DeLacey: I am currently the Major Gifts Manager at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The museum is not a part of the Smithsonian system, but it is right by the White House. I started here two and a half years ago, and I interned here in college in during the summer of 2010 through the Wake Washington program. During the internship, a Wake alum at the National Gallery gave me ideas in terms of museums other museums to apply to. My initial job here as the Development Associate has evolved into Major Gifts Manager, which is much to do with fundraising. My job entails a lot of database management, creating reports, sending acknowledgements for gifts. I also work with the Board of Directors and stewards some of the committees focused on fundraising.
DL: How did you end up on the development track? This seems to be a pretty popular career path for Art History majors.
GD: The summer summer after I graduated, I was in New York for an art gallery internship at Bryce Wolkowitz. I had wanted to be in DC, and I had been a development intern while in college. While I was in school, I had been very much on the academic side of art history, and I thought about going to grad school. However, during my senior year, I took the Management in the Visual Arts class, and I started considering other opportunities in the art world, hence the gallery internship. Honestly, the gallery world and New York weren’t the best fit for me, so I moved back to DC. I took a part time job in development, and then also took a part time role at the Kennedy Center.
Most people are attracted to curatorial positions, which are considered to be the “sexier” part of the museum world. However, Museums need money. Because of this, development teams are often bigger than curatorial ones. Because of this, there are more jobs and opportunities for advancement. I would also say there is a lot of mobility in the development field. There is a very high demand for strong development officers, especially at the higher levels. And at the end of the day, you are still supporting the mission.
DL: When you were at the Kennedy Center, you were working in the performing as opposed to visual arts. How was that transition?
GD: I am honestly not a performing arts person. My heart is in the visual arts. However, the Kennedy Center was a great place to learn but the staff was enormous. Now, I feel like I am on a more manageable sized team, and I am more connected with mission. I went from a team of seventy at the Kennedy Center, and I am on a team of eight now. With the smaller team, I have much more freedom and am able to make more of an impact. Also, the Kennedy Center is such an institution. From a development perspective, there are a lot of people that give large sums of money. However, for the smaller level donors, people feel like they may be neglected in comparison, or question the value and impact of their gifts. At a smaller institution people are able to see the results of their contributions.
DL: How much did your studies or Wake in general inform or drive your career path?
GD: Honestly, it was a bit of a mixed bag. At Wake, I was panicking during my senior year.. Thankfully there is a strong alumni network for art history in DC. Everyone is very inclusive and helpful. Jame Anderson has created a group of about fifteen alums in the arts, and we get together for informal happy hours quarterly. Of the fifteen, ten people are normally able to attend, and we will chat about work and any issues we are facing.
I would say the alumni network has been a better resource than the OPCD. I was able to get my internship in New York through a connection I had made during the New York trip for management in the visual arts. And while that ended up not being what I wanted to do with my career, it was still a good learning experience.
DL: What do you think Wake arts could have done to have better prepared students for life after graduation?
GD: I would say the professors were more supportive academically, and were not focused as much on life after graduation. However, I would say Management in the Visual Arts was super helpful. It was a crash course in terms of the various aspects of the art world. Honestly, I wish I had taken it earlier on at Wake.
DL: What would you say is the hardest part about breaking into the museum development field.
GD: You have to be incredibly persistent. For the first ten months, I had part time roles at a consulting firm and an arts organization. You have to stick with it and get the experience where you can. The more internships and part time roles you can have, the better off you will be.
DL: How are you liking living in DC?
GD: DC is a manageable city, but it’s very expensive. However, I have a great friend group here. When I first moved here, I lived with a girl from Wake. Now, we have this amazing group of friends that is about half Wake people. Also, in DC, there is always something to do.
In terms of living situations, the neighborhood I am in is pretty quiet. I have a dog and a backyard. I think some people get overwhelmed with the politics in DC, but my friend group is all people working for nonprofits, so I don’t experience as much of that aspect of the city. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to get caught up in the madness of the Hill. There are some bars you will go to, and people will ask you political questions, but you can find your own scene. Things are not ubiquitous throughout the city. Also, DC has a strong hipster scene. There are a lot of dive bars and cool coffee shops. It can be more relaxed.
The last thing I would say is that DC is very active. A lot of the time, my friends and I will go hiking on the weekends. And there are a lot of parks near the city… not just buttoned up government people running around.
DL: What has surprised you the most about the art scene in DC? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move to move there?
GD: The art scene here is definitely growing beyond just museums. However, museums are doing interesting things to engage new and younger people. Several museums have First Fridays where you can buy beer and wine. The National Gallery has started their Edge Series that is a free event with a cash bar. What’s really cool though is that people are in the galleries, not just at the bar. The scene here is not New York, but there is definitely an art scene. Also, there are a few galleries focused on emerging artists. Also, we are so close to Richmond and Baltimore which also have awesome art scenes that trickle into DC.
DL: So what's next for you?
GD: Honestly, I am not sure. l love DC, but don’t know if I will live here here long term. My fiance wants to live abroad which would be really exciting. I exactly have a five year plan, but I know I want to stay in the arts.
DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on, or currently go by?
GD: Make all of the connections you can if you want to work in art world or museums. Also, do your best to stay up to date on what is going on in the art world. Also, if you want to go into development at a museum, database experience is a huge difference maker, even if you have just learned those skills through an internship.