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From MCLA to MASS MoCA

07/19/17

Working behind the scenes at MASS MoCA, Chris Handschuh ’16 is an art installation assistant in the museum’s Art Fabrication and Installation Department. Because of his passion for live music production and stage management, this arts management major – who also minored in music – never imagined that he one day might work in that capacity.

A typical day with his crew might include hanging prints, photographs, paintings and drawings. Handschuh also installs audio and video components in a number of shows, and packs up art to be shipped across the globe. On other days, he can be found doing wood or metal work, as he fabricates content for artists. 

“The most fun and interesting piece of art I’ve installed is Spencer Finch’s Cosmic Latte, Handschuh said. “This was my first installation at MASS MoCA.  The show required my team and me to hang more than 150 uniquely fabricated LED light fixtures in the shape of a wave from the ceiling, above an 80-foot long gallery space. Running the wires in straight lines and 90-degree angles made the ceiling look like the base of some type of futuristic circuit board.”

Handschuh gravitated toward arts management for his life’s career as a result of the fieldwork and classroom experiences he had at MCLA. This led him to the realization that he wanted a career in performing arts production and administration.

“My academic experience with arts management at MCLA burst with opportunity,” he said. “The diversification of class content provided me with the foundation I needed to make an impact on the world after my four years in college. I learned about the arts ecology and everything within it, from set design and grant writing to arts marketing and event production.”

MCLA helped Handschuh to secure his job at MASS MoCA through its pairing with various internships offered at the museum. “I may not have ended working at MASS MoCA at all had I not demonstrated my education, preparation and ability over the course of three internships and one ambassadorship at the museum.”

His internships included two with the MASS MoCA Box Office during the FreshGrass and Solid Sound music festivals, and a third as a performing arts administration intern in 2015, when he helped to manage visual and performing arts marketing, special events, artist residencies and festivals, among other duties.

Although Handschuh plans to continue to work in art installation, he is dedicated to the performing arts, as well. “My ‘dream job’ is to produce an annual music and arts festival one day,” he explained.

In addition to his classes at MCLA and the internships he served, Handschuh was the drummer for the College’s Jazz Band, and participated in a variety of extracurricular activities and clubs, such as the Harlequin Musical Theater Club and MCLA’s a cappella ensemble, the Allegrettos. 

“These experiences enhanced my educational experience by adding a creative depth to what I was doing academically,” he said.

However, perhaps the most “high impact” experience Handschuh participated in was the 2016 Arts Management Trip to London, where he explored prominent arts and cultural destinations. 

“I gained new perspectives on art and culture through another country’s lens, and returned home with a new appreciation for travel, culture and artistic expression,” he said. And, because of his love for North Adams, MASS MoCA and MCLA, Handschuh said there’s no other place in the world he’d rather be.