Top Take-A-Ways from Contemporary Art

On Friday, August 17 a group of young pros met us at MOCA Cleveland where we heard from the museum's Director of Individual Giving and did a group tour. 

I am a very visual learner. I don't really like to dabble in the abstract - I hate books with cliffhanger endings and content that is "left up to the viewer's interpretation." I wish my mind wasn't so literal, but... it is. 

When YNPN Cleveland decided to do a meet and greet at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had been to the museum once before and didn't quite grasp well... anything. I thought everything was cool and unique but wasn't able to wrap my mind around abstract, contemporary art. 

After going on a guided tour and hearing more about the MOCA's vision and artistic values, I actually made some parallels between my job and the MOCA's unique exhibits. 

Adding to your stories from an unexpected source

On our final stop of the group tour, we entered the Mueller Gallery - being greeted by utopian, dream-like, colorful pieces of art on the walls. The room itself was pretty minimal - white walls and hardwood floors - but the colorful pieces of art captured all of my attention. 

The two artists featured, Walter Price and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, were not aware of each other's work and did not collaborate to create the space. In fact, Bruenchenhein passed away in 1983. The museum approached Price about pairing his dream-like works with the otherworldly paintings of Bruenchenhein to create the amazing space. 

This approach got me thinking... maybe the best additions to your stories are the ones you aren't even aware of yet. When communicating with donors and volunteers, I am always looking for fresh and new content. I oftentimes think of the same categories of stories: patient success stories, mission moments, research advancements, staff updates. However, this exhibit really inspired me to start thinking outside of the box. 

Instead of going to the same categories and reworking them, what if I simply paired them with something new and unexpected. The gallery captured my attention immediately and I want my communications to donors to do the same. 

MOCA Cleveland

Art (and non-profits) are often more than meets the eye

The Cohen Gallery brought us to Nightlife, a piece by Cyprien Gaillard. Entering a dark room with an eerie soundtrack, I was a bit nervous of what lay ahead. However, after slipping on a pair of 3D glasses and getting comfortable on a bench in the gallery, I was blown away. The piece was an odd mix of creepy, calming, and psychedelic. Shot over the course of two years, the Gaillard pieced together video clips from historic monuments in Berlin, Los Angeles, and Cleveland to tell a story of seemingly unrelated cultural and natural phenomenons in three completely different cities. 

The work was mesmerizing and taught me a few things:

  • To see the core message of something, you oftentimes have to be patient. The entire work is split into three chapters to create a 20 minute piece. Now, I know 20 minutes doesn't seem like a lot - but I am always on the go, so 20 minutes can feel like a lifetime! In this case, it was worth the wait to explore the piece as a whole and truly understand the message. 

  • You can't rush progress. I often struggle with projects that can't be done right away. I love check lists and to-do lists and being able to cross things off of both pretty quickly. However, with non-profits, lots of changes don't happen overnight. Just like Gaillard's work - which took two years to complete - a lot of the larger strategy and projects in our field take time to nurture and piece together. 

  • Subtle changes can make a big impact. Nightlife is set to a sample of the chorus of "Blackman's Word", with the lyrics ringing out "I was born a loser" over and over again. As the piece showcases the oak tree Jesse Owens was gifted during the Berlin Olympics the lyrics shift to "I was born a winner", a small change in the piece that makes a huge impact. What are the changes that we can make as young pros that can make a big impact? For me, one of the personal changes I made was pledging to eat lunch away from my desk at least three times a week. It seems simple, but it helped me force myself to step away and enjoy the workday a bit more. Professionally, I am excited to play around with this concept in my fundraising program. Where were some small gaps we had last year that we can make a slight change to this year? Sometimes, it just takes fixing one small leak to make the whole ship float. 

The ThinkerA still shot from the Nightlife video.


Erin Zaranec is a Campaign Manager at The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society managing in-school fundraisers. She is also the Outreach Chair for YNPN Cleveland. 

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