Lisa Borok: Dream Job
Lisa Borok's '96 dream job started with Indiana Jones and the "Temple of Doom."
"From the time I was a little girl I wanted to work in a museum because of Indiana Jones," says the woman who works as the Portland Art Museum's exhibition coordinator.
When she came to Willamette, Borok (formerly known as Morgan) thought she might go into history, archeology or anthropology. But late registration proved a happy coincidence that led her to art. "I was one of the last people to register so many of the classes I wanted were closed. My advisor suggested I take photography in America and architecture in America. It was the beginning of my love affair with art. I fell in love with talking about art and using art to identify and analyze the world."
She settled on an integrated art major - a blend of art history and studio art. "I never wanted to make my living as an artist. I was more interested in exhibitions and how they are put together."
To gain practical experience, she worked as a gallery attendant at the former Hallie Ford Gallery. When it came time to do a senior thesis, the World Views class focus was changing to she was studying the Middle East and that gave her the opportunity to organize an exhibition in the gallery focused on women artists from the Middle East. "It was grueling," she says, recalling the project that took an entire summer and fall to pull together. "It was also really wonderful to be engaged in something - to eat, sleep and breathe it - and then to see it come together. To go from seeing the art in slides and books and then seeing everything in place on the walls was incredible."
Although a number of Willamette faculty, including Roger Hull and James Thompson were influential, she says it was the art department's administrative assistant, Linda Nelson, who taught her the all-important logistics of exhibitions. "There's the perceived art world and then there's the reality of the art world - labeling artwork, getting it into the building, hanging it. Linda knew everything and she helped me with all the technical things. She taught me the logistics of what I do today."
After graduating from Willamette and earning a master's degree in arts management from the University of Oregon, Borok applied and won a position as a curatorial assistant at the Portland Art Museum. In 1999, the museum was expanding and needed someone to coordinate all the exhibits. "I was in the right place at the right time. I got to write my own job description."
Today, Borok is the point person and chief traffic cop for all the art museum's exhibitions. She negotiates contracts, manages budgets, handles copyright issues, answers questions about upcoming exhibitions and, most importantly, keeps the 20 or so exhibitions that are coming, showing or going running smoothly. "It's an amazing feeling when a show is finally up. This is my dream job."
This story ran in the summer '05 issue of the Scene magazine with Lisa Borok (formerly Lisa Morgan) listed as Paula Borok. We apologize for the error.