In the eight years since completing her graduate work in Art History and Museum Studies at Florida State University, Lesley Marchessault has found a variety of rewarding ways to put her knowledge and enthusiasm to work for the arts in Provincetown, MA. In service and in her profession, she works tirelessly for artists, museums, and visitors, passing on both the thrill of discovery and the support of community that defined her experience as a student at FSU.
Marchessault received an MA in Art History and a Certificate in Museum Studies from FSU in May 2009, soon took an internship at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM), and now serves as the museum’s Development Coordinator. Established in 1914, PAAM is the cultural anchor of the oldest continuous art colony in America. Since 1899, artists have been flocking to Provincetown to study art from the masters at the city’s schools and institutions. PAAM boasts a collection of over 3000 objects, primarily 19th- and 20th-century American and European paintings, prints, and sculpture. Lesley writes that sharing with a diverse community the art objects she learned about as an Art History student is one of the “extraordinary pleasures” of her position.
As Development Coordinator, Marchessault spends her days soliciting and processing gifts to the Museum, overseeing membership, and managing all aspects of fundraising events. She engages personally with patrons and researches and writes grants for the Museum. She also oversees the Fredi Schiff Levin Lecture Series which brings scholars and curators to the museum, usually in conjunction with an exhibition, throughout the summer months. She also has opportunities to work directly with the museum’s collection, managing a program to display permanent collection pieces in local businesses, and curating off-site exhibitions.
Marchessault also shares her arts and volunteer management skills with the Provincetown community. She is serving a three-year term as the Arts Community Chair on the Provincetown Visitor Services Board. She volunteers with the nonprofit center 20 Summers, which hosts artistic and musical events in an historic venue, and with the Fine Arts Work Center, which supports emerging artists and writers and provides workshops and cultural events. In 2016 Marchessault co-curated the exhibition Beachcombers, featuring the works of a 100-year old artist’s club in Provincetown founded by notable artists Charles Hawthorne, Edwin Dickinson, and Ambrose Webster, among others. She also volunteers on the Marketing Committee of the Cape Cod Museum Trail, an organization that highlights all the museums on Cape Cod and their unique attributes.
Asked where she finds the energy and organizational prowess to manage these many roles, Lesley points to her upbringing and her background as an FSU student as the driving forces behind her drive to serve and share the arts:
Growing up in Tallahassee and earning both Bachelors and Masters’ degrees in Art History from Florida State taught me so much about art, but also about the world and the way to conduct myself. The experiences I had at FSU play a big role in my professional day-to-day life. I often remember advice that professors gave us, and just yesterday I quoted a professor that told us ‘you’re going to be competing with other people for the rest of your career. Don’t compete with each other, now, in grad school.’ It was profound advice, given to a group of young adults who couldn’t fully comprehend at the time how right she was. The memories I have of being at FSU are all pretty fantastic – I learned so much and often find myself going back to old printed out articles, covered in highlighter and my hand-scribbled notes, to reread some incredible piece of research about Vermeer’s perspective or small-scale sculpture in the Italian Renaissance. The discoveries we can still find in pieces and places that people have been looking at for hundreds of years – that’s still what gets my heart thumping.