Lindsey Kouvaris, '02
Curator of Exhibits and Collections
Katie Cronin: Where did you go to college and what did you study?
Lindsey Kouvaris: As an undergraduate, I went to Santa Clara and majored in Art History with a double minor in Studio Art and Spanish. I earned my MA in Art History from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
KC: How did you begin your career in the arts? Did you originally start your career in a different field?
LK: My mother was very creative. She really enjoyed art, so my interest in the subject was sort of innate. I didn't think about being exposed to art, it was just part of my life.
My high school offered one art history course and I was dying to take it, but my advisors told me to focus on math and science. Calculus and physics are what colleges want to see on your transcript, not art history. I listened to them, but when I got to college I had the opportunity to take an elective art history survey course. I remember sitting in the darkened classroom, looking at slides and thinking "this is a amazing!" I declared my major a couple of weeks later.
KC: How did you arrive at your position today?
LK: At first I didn't know what I wanted to do with my degree. I thought I might like to teach, or write art criticism, or perhaps work in a museum. As a sophomore at SCU, I applied for a position as Registration Assistant at the de Saisset. I didn't even know what the job would entail at the time. It just seemed like a logical step to try to get experience at a museum. And, working with the collection sounded fun, so that's what I started doing.
About six months later, I was taking an art history course that was focused on putting together an exhibition at the de Saisset. I wasn't allowed to work in the same department for the class as I worked in for my paid position, so I volunteered to assist the curator. That experience turned out to be transformative for me—that's where I discovered how much I enjoy curatorial work.
In spring of my junior year, I got an internship in the Curatorial Department at the San Jose Museum of Art. After about eight months, their Curatorial Assistant left to pursue something else. I was hired part-time and then the position turned into a full-time job when I graduated.
Since then I've worked in the arts constantly, keeping my foot in the door and doing whatever I can to stay involved. I've worked in a few different museum and art galleries, and I spent about two years doing programming for a multi-arts center before coming here.
KC: When did you start working at the de Saisset again?
LK: I started working as the Curator in the fall of 2009. It's like this incredible coming home because I've literally come full circle, coming back to the place where it all began.
KC: What are your responsibilities as the Curator?
LK: As Curator, my primary responsibilities are to determine the schedule of exhibitions and to select the work that is included in the shows. I act as exhibition coordinator when we have a traveling exhibition or I work closely with the guest curator. In addition, I generate interpretive materials such as exhibition descriptions, wall texts, and object labels. I work with the Preparator to design and layout the shows. And, I build education programs—lectures, workshops, panel discussions, etc.—to compliment the exhibits.
Since we are part of the University, there is a lot of emphasis placed on integrated education—learning opportunities outside the classroom. I collaborate with faculty, students, and staff from across the University to identify ways in which classes can connect to what we're doing here.
I am also responsible for our publicity and marketing efforts. I oversee our two active docent programs and work with students to program our annual College Night events.
KC: What is the most interesting part of your job?
LK: I meet such a wide array of people, from faculty and students to artists, art dealers, educators, and other museum professionals through this job. I love meeting new people and learning from their diverse ideas and perspectives.
I also love that my job challenges me. Since we have such a small staff, we each take on a variety of responsibilities. I never really know what I'll be working on from day to day. New things come up all the time and it keeps me on my toes.
KC: What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
LK: I think of my position as a means of education—a way to share information and knowledge outside the classroom. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is creating these learning moments. Whether it's a visitor off the street or a student who's here because of a class assignment, there's an opportunity for that person to learn something new about history or art, or to encounter a new perspective or way of thinking. What we do makes that kind of encounter possible and I love it.
I also really enjoy working with students. It's amazing to see them working through some of the same issues that I did when I was at SCU and then, when they graduate, go out there and just go after their dream full force.
KC: What advice would you give to someone thinking about pursuing a career in the museum world?
LK: This field is very competitive. Networking is one of the greatest things a person can do to open doors. Gain experience anywhere you can: volunteer at a museum, try for an internship, anything that gets your foot in the door. I'm a big believer that everything happens for a reason, so remain open to new opportunities because you never know where they might lead.
KC: What hobbies do you do outside of work?
LK: My husband and I love to be outdoors. On the weekends we like to go hiking. I also enjoy cooking, reading, and writing.