Not all nonprofits are created equal. From small, grassroots organizations to massive private universities, any number of odd and different organizations have come together under the umbrella of “nonprofit.” In the past three weeks, working with an organization on the smaller end of the scale, I’ve noticed a few common threads between them all. Some have highly specific goals and others work in the broad landscape of a single industry, some boast staff of thousands and others are bewilderingly shorthanded, but at the heart of every nonprofit is an individual or team that has the passion to stick out some very difficult times, and hopefully victories too, in order to keep the goal of the organization alive and thriving.
I can’t imagine myself at a better placement than Zygote Press for the summer. As an artist, the possibilities of being here and learning the methods of printmaking are endless, and it’s also given me exposure to the type of organization I associate with the word “nonprofit.” Something I’ve heard a lot over the past few weeks is that staff at these types of nonprofits wear many hats—which I’ve found to be true even of interns. Rather than being specialized in a single skill, it helps to have a little practice in everything because these organizations are so understaffed. Here at Zygote, I have my hands in administrative jobs like email correspondence, file preparation, copy editing and database management, and I’m on task with arranging festivals, talks and classes. Meanwhile, I’m finding time to get familiar with the shop, and learning intaglio, silkscreen and letterpress printmaking. To be an artist, office assistant, ambassador, event planner or correspondent are monumental jobs in themselves, but being all of these at once is the job description of an employee at Zygote.
One of the most exciting aspects of nonprofit work is the high variability that comes with wearing all these different hats. Though as an intern much of my time is still spent in the office, every day brings something new to change up the routine desk work. I’ve never been much of a sit-behind-a-desk-and-crunch-numbers kind of gal, so the constant change in duties has kept me very interested for the past few weeks. For example, this summer I’m responsible for coordinating Zygote’s Green Growth Symposium on July 16, an event that will welcome the whole community to the changes the shop has undergone in an effort to be environmentally safe and non-toxic. Though “event planning” was a trade I’d never seen myself excelling in before, preparing for this big event has surfaced a number of skills I didn’t know I had. Half the fun is in the anticipation of this big event, and I’ll be proud to see it all come together when July rolls around.
It’s shocking to think we interns are already four weeks into an 11-week program. And yet, there’s still so much to come. With everything happening in Cleveland’s thriving arts community this summer, from Zygote’s 20th birthday to the Cleveland Museum of Art’s centennial, I don’t see myself wanting for any more culture. However, getting to see a different neighborhood every week with the intern cohort is revealing Cleveland to me in the most rewarding way. Every day I learn a little more about the hometown I never realized I fit so well into, balancing dozens of tasks in a small nonprofit, somewhere in Asiatown.
Johanna Tomsick, a senior at Boston College double majoring in Biology and Philosophy, is placed at Zygote Press. Johanna assists with design and implementation of programming strategies for Zygote’s Free the Ink 20th Anniversary community event series. She also makes enhancements to the organizations’ education/community engagement programs through research of other arts providers.