try { } catch (err) { };


Profile: Samantha May '09

Posted: November 4, 2011

As an art history student focusing on the Italian Renaissance, Samantha May '09 never pictured herself working in a gallery of contemporary art, such as Hillyer Art Space in Washington, D.C., where she is now the gallery director.

"Working here (Hillyer Art Space) gives me all the skills I will need eventually to be a museum director," said Sam, who graduated from Wilson in 2009 and is currently working toward a master’s degree in art history at American University. She has only to complete her thesis, which she expects to finish by December.

Sam discovered Hillyer Art Space while working at another nearby museum called the Phillips Collection. She was drawn to Hillyer because the people there reward hard work. "The organization was like Wilson — if you put in the work you can get a lot out of it," Sam said.

She began an internship at Hillyer Art Space in August 2010, was hired as the events coordinator January 2011 and was promoted to gallery director in May. Sam is responsible for meeting with exhibiting artists, writing news releases, looking for new artists to bring in to the gallery, managing events, managing staff, applying for grants and participating on the selection committee.

Sam plans to one day become curator of a museum. She has her sights set on either the National Gallery of Art in Washington or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Meanwhile, graduate school has been “everything I anticipated it would be,” according to Sam, who says she felt well-prepared for graduate school after her experience in Wilson's undergraduate program. "Wilson has the same kind of workload as a graduate school, so writing papers and handling the workload came naturally.”

Sam was initially interested in Wilson's equestrian program, but changed her major and earned bachelor’s degrees in both art history and international studies. "I fell in love with art, and working in a museum was a way that I could be surrounded by it and do all of the other things I wanted to in life, like travel and handle art," she said.

Working in a museum became her dream after an art professor gave her "Making the Mummies Dance" by Thomas Hoving, a book that details the author's experience as former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "After reading about all of the behind-the-scenes things that happened I just wanted to be a part of it all — going to art auctions and purchasing art for the museum, working with collectors, finding works in random basements and attics," Sam said.

Last Updated: November 30, 2011