May 21

The Intern Experience

Bri at LTAC

Bri at the Legacy Trust Award Collection private viewing

The word “intern” sometimes carries a negative connotation. I’ve learned some people believe you’re out getting coffee, copying papers or organizing the office…but at Sabo PR that isn’t the case. On November 17, I accepted my first internship and had the opportunity to look into the real world of PR.

I moved back to Grand Rapids during my last semester at Western Michigan University, taking online classes and getting acclimated to living with my parents (again). I loved my classes and professors, but it was so refreshing to be in an environment other than campus.

When I walked into Sabo PR for my first day, I immediately felt valued; everyone was so welcoming and friendly. Being the intern, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but everyone made me feel at home. It put me in a position where I felt comfortable to be myself, make mistakes and ask questions, which eventually led to the success of LTAC.

For those of you who don’t know what LTAC is, listen up: the Legacy Trust Award Collection is an art competition for adult artists with disabilities. Artists from all around Michigan compete to be one of four winners, who receive a spot in ArtPrize, along with funding and support to succeed. It’s an all-volunteer group and a labor of love.

Sabo PR team at LTAC

Sabo PR team members at LTAC – T.J., Mary Ann, Brian, Kateyln and Bri

This year, Sabo PR committed to playing a bigger role in LTAC – and that’s where I came in. The primary focus of my internship was to help stage this year’s show, from sending out the call to art and connecting with artists to drafting press releases and social media pitches to finally staging the show in May.

During my first couple of weeks, I heard tidbits of information about LTAC. But it was only January, so I knew the show wasn’t top of mind with my co-workers, but I was already so eager. Toward the end of the month, Brian and I had our first LTAC meeting, which was a little overwhelming. I walked out with files full of information, extremely nervous that I wouldn’t be able to make this happen.

Once we had our first committee meeting, I began hearing the stories of LTAC – and the joy it brought everyone involved, and I was ready. The passion behind the committee was enough to make anyone excited, but meeting the first artist to submit her work is what truly did it for me. Everyone told me I had to experience LTAC to understand its magic, and they were right.

Bri with one of this year's entries

Bri with one of this year’s entries

On March 30, I met the first artist to submit a piece to the Legacy Trust Award Collection and from then on, I was hooked. It was her first time competing, my first time being involved, and I felt nothing but excitement for both of us. I was blown away at the caliber of her work – and of everyone’s work to follow.

Our committee stages a two-day show at the Grand Rapids Art Museum each spring. The first day is a private voting reception for artists, their families and friends, supporters of LTAC and sponsors. The second day is open to the public. Artists are selected by popular vote, online voting, a panel of celebrity judges and our committee.

We set another record this year, securing pieces from 152 artists from around the state. Once we received all the artwork, we then had to lay it out on to make sure it looked good and would fit when we got to the GRAM. Then there were nametags, labels, catering, lights, social media posts and lots of different details to keep track of.

Bri and Brianne working on board layout

Bri and 2017 Sabo PR intern Brianne, who came back to volunteer for LTAC, lay out the art boards.

As the dates of May 14 and 15 got closer, I felt more passion for LTAC. I began to memorize the artwork, the artists and their stories, which stuck with me. On a daily basis, I was excited to go to work and truly enjoyed what I was doing.

The night of the voting reception, all the late nights, early mornings and Saturdays became worth it. After moving the art and setting up the show, I had an hour at home that day to change my clothes and get ready for the party. It was then, and only then, when the stress started to melt into excitement.

When I returned to the GRAM and saw the artists arriving, proudly wearing their nametags and standing next to their art, I couldn’t help but smile. I don’t think the smile left my face all night.

Thank you, artists, for teaching me so many invaluable lessons about life and always making me smile. I will never forget my experience with LTAC and the lives it touches, including my own.


5 thoughts on “The Intern Experience”

  1. Mary says:

    We are so thankful for all of the hard work that goes into making this show a success. This was our 4th year participating in the event and we are so thankful for the way each artist is treated with dignity and value. I have not seen my son so happy in so long as when he found out he was a winner. He has talked to more people in the past past month than he usually does in a year’s time. The joy in his voice right now is a great gift to me. These are some of the behind the scenes moments that you haven’t experienced but it has brought great joy to our family and friends. Thank you and the many other people who work so hard to make this happen.

    1. Brian Jon Greenleaf says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Mary. The Sabo PR team is thrilled to be a part of this incredible event – it truly inspires every year. Congratulations to Matthew!

  2. Bill Walker says:

    Bri – you were such a gift to this year’s event. I don’t mean the time your spent on all the tasks associated with pulling this off (which you nailed!!), but for your genuine passion and excitement. I sat back at times to merely watch you, as a “newbie,” experience the intangible aspects of LTAC for the first time. It renewed my own passion for this endeavor and affirmed that the “magic” of LTAC goes beyond just touching the lives of the participating artists. Job well done, Bri.

    1. Brian Jon Greenleaf says:

      Thanks for sharing these kind words, Bill — couldn’t agree more!

  3. Mary Helmic says:

    The LTAC event is such a gift to the artists, loved ones, and the community. It’s something I keep spreading the word about and look forward to each year!

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