Thank You for the Interview
At work this week, I accidentally made a woman cry. It was during an interview; she’s a neighborhood organizer, and I was talking to her about the concert series she coordinates each summer with the help of a grant from the City of Providence. When I asked about the community formed around the programming, we had to take a break because she teared up telling me how her 3 and 5-year-old sons have grown up surrounded by neighbors and concert-goers they love.
Making stories about social innovation, I get the chance to talk to lots of people who have deep personal ties to the work they do. A slightly teary interview isn’t so unusual – in fact, catching the emotion behind a big project is my favorite part of doing storytelling. But sitting on junky office chairs in the florescent-lit conference room of the municipal building where I intern for the City of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism (AC+T)? I wasn’t quite expecting the emotional impact.
I wasn’t expecting it because up until now, the work that I’ve done for my internship has been pretty far removed from the faces and feelings at the heart of art initiatives in Providence. When I accepted my iProv position in April, it was with the understanding that I’d mostly be doing storytelling and documentation work focused on AC+T summer programs. I was imagining a summer of bopping around from one outdoor event to another, snapping pictures and interviewing audience members.
As it turns out, Providence’s array of AC+T-sponsored art events doesn’t really start up until mid-July – that’s two weeks before I head home – and the work that needs to happen in the office before that time is almost purely organizational. So for the past month, instead of hanging around outdoor performances, I’ve become an expert at sending organizational emails, creating art contact spreadsheets, and scanning binders full of archived conference materials.
I had been looking forward to the interview as a way to spark change in my internship. In my head, the conversation would be the start of a grand new month at AC+T, full of adventures and grounded in tasks that took some creative brainpower. Instead? Talking with the organizer woman made me feel really, really good about my month as a secretary.
For her, and for residents of all the other neighborhoods around Providence participating in AC+T programming, a yearly grant from the city has totally reshaped the way she interacts with her community. It has allowed her to make new connections while chopping watermelons with her neighbors and has given her kids an occasion to dance, craft, and make friends. And yes, that grant is supported by hours of paperwork and way too many tedious emails. But if I can contribute to making Providence a safer and more creative space by being the person to take on those tasks, I’m happy to do it. Clearly, it’s worth it.