Student Reflections on the LPG Program

Alexis Pierce
18 December 2020

Student Refections on the LPG Program

Landmarks Programs Intern Alexis Pierce recently chatted with Ashley Stanford, a former Landmarks Preservation Guild (LPG) volunteer, to learn more about the LPG program and how Ashley's volunteer experience impacted her decision in pursuing a career in conservation.

How did you hear about the Landmarks Preservation Guild and when were you involved with LPG?

I was involved with Landmarks throughout the 2016-2017 term. The sculpture I was assigned to work on was Square Tilt by Joel Perlman, a large abstract steel sculpture that lives in front of the Perry-Castaneda Library. I heard about Landmarks when searching for volunteer and internship positions in art and cultural heritage conservation since it was a career I was interested in and wanted to learn more about. I reached out, applied, and was accepted! I was a little nervous applying since I did not have any prior experience working with sculpture, but Landmarks was very welcoming, and I was able to receive great training. 

Joel Perlman, Conservation of Square Tilt, 1983. Photo by Giles Heno-Coe. Sanding and oiling on 22 September 2016. Photo courtesy of Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin.

What work are you doing now?

Currently, I am a Pre-program Intern in the Paper Conservation Lab at the Menil Drawing Institute, the newest addition to the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. I am working towards gaining more experience and hours in the field before joining a master’s program in art conservation - hence the term “pre-program”. The internship has shifted since the lockdown, but prior to it, I was busy with condition assessments, artist and materials research, and minor treatments. 

I’ve also been busy this year volunteering with the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) as an Outreach Co-officer. With ECPN I help run the Liaison Program, which involves overseeing 60+ individual liaisons represented by four categories: Regional, Graduate, Specialty, and Committee & Network. One of the most important parts of this role is spreading the word of resources and opportunities to people in all stages of their careers, from pre-program to early career professionals. This became even more important this year, throughout the various stages of COVID-19 lockdowns. My co-officer and I have focused on supporting the existing network, expanding local chapters and virtual resources, and developing virtual programming. 

Photo from Ft. Menil Drawing Campus

In what ways did the LPG prepare you for your current position with Menil?

I really appreciated all the documentation and close looking that went along with maintaining Square Tilt. Because I was only focusing on one sculpture during my time at Landmarks, I was able to gain a good understanding of all parts of the object, its condition, and what to look out for. That deep knowledge I found important, so I tried to take it with me. Landmarks also prepared me on how to talk with others about what I’m doing. Since Square Tilt was right in front of the PCL, a busy library on campus, I would receive a lot of questions about conservation which led me to develop an elevator pitch for the work I was doing with Landmarksa very helpful skill.

I think most importantly, I was able to explore conservation through volunteering with Landmarks and see if it was something I really wanted to pursue as a career. I was able to learn how to look at works in a much different way than I was used to in my art history courses and I learned that conservation is not always glamorous. Conservation can be sweaty, involve removing lots (lots!) of bird droppings, and really getting your hands and knees dirty.

Joel Perlman, Square Tilt, 1983. Photo by Dror Balinger. Courtesy of Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin.

What was it like working with conservators and other LPG members?

I really loved my time at Landmarks and enjoyed the combination of solo work and group activities. LPG was a very mixed group of students in regard to majors, but we all had interests in the public works around campus. It was really great to learn more about the works together and then be able to share with my friends while walking around campus.  

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to soon enter a graduate program in art conservation, which is the next step to eventually becoming a conservator myself. I’m looking mostly at the programs in the United States which include NYU, Buffalo State, and the University of Delaware. Art conservation programs in the US are incredibly difficult to get into and this application year will be my second attempt. Fingers crossed!

Photo provided by Ashley Stanford.