Caroline New, C’08

Director of Donor Engagement and Communications, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia, PA

History of Art Major

I took two years off in the middle of my undergrad career. During that time, I went to community college to try to figure out what I wanted to do. And it was actually there that I took the Art History class that sparked my interest enough to come back and major in it.

When I get to welcome guests into the new spaces, I feel like I am showing off my work.

David Brownlee’s History of Architecture class was particularly memorable, because he used Philadelphia itself and even the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) as an extension of our classroom, with walking tours around the city and assignments that brought us into the galleries. And, during my senior year, in 2007, I started coming to the museum to volunteer.

As a student, I would walk through these galleries, but you can see only so much as a visitor. You see the works of art installed on the walls, but there is so much more to it. What really fascinated me was that you could work in an art museum with an interest, an enthusiasm, a passion for art, but you didn’t necessarily have to do one of the traditional tracks to become a curator, which may have included another five to seven years of pursuing a Ph.D. Of course, we have many curators here, but we have four, five, six times as many staff members who do other job functions. There are engineers, graphic designers, scientists, educators, so many people who do all kinds of work that makes this place what it is.

I’ve been employed at the PMA since 2009, before and during, and hopefully soon to be after, our comprehensive fundraising campaign called It Starts Here. First, I worked on the grants team, and since 2014, I have been building our office’s communications team and recently took on engagement, which includes event planning and stewardship activities as well. A huge fundraising priority was to finish a particular phase of the master plan designed by Frank Gehry, the architect leading the museum’s renovation. We laid the groundwork in the early 2010s. It was years in the making. In 2017, we went public with the amount we’d raised at that point, and we started reaching more and more people to invite them to invest in the museum and what we’re doing for the community and the future of arts in Philadelphia. Even though this campaign is not quite over yet, we are already beginning to think about the next one to ensure that we can fully complete Gehry’s vision for the museum and do even more for the city, hopefully once the pandemic is behind us and we’re operating at the level we did before 2020.

While we’ve been working remotely since March 2020 and offering virtual programs and digital communications to keep our donors connected, I’ve been onsite here and there since spring and summer 2021 when we were able to invite donors and members into the new spaces for the first time. We’ve opened major exhibitions, too, and while the curator can sometimes be in the spotlight, getting the space ready takes hundreds and hundreds of people. When I get to welcome guests into the new spaces, I feel like I am showing off my work. There was a moment when we were all starting to shed our masks before the Delta variant emerged and everyone was smiling ear to ear, including me, as they set foot into the transformed museum for the first time. — Dec 3, 2021 • Photo by Brooke Sietinsons