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Behind the Scenes at Literary Arts: David Grann

By Ada Hallstrom

This year I am a freshman attending Bennington College in Vermont during the school year. Over my extended winter break I have been interning with the Public Programs department of Literary Arts. Throughout my seven-week internship I have been able to learn a lot about non-profits, event programing, and literary organizations but so far one of the most exciting things I have experienced was the David Grann author visit.  

On the evening of January 25th author David Grann gave a lecture in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall about his newest book, The Wager. This event was for Literary Art’s program, Portland Arts & Lectures, and doors opened at 7 p.m. for David Grann’s lecture at 7:30 p.m., but my day started that morning at 11 a.m.  

On the morning of the 25th, one of my supervisors picked me up to drive up to Adrienne C. Nelson High School in Happy Valley to sit in for a live conversation between Grann, OPB’s host Dave Miller, and 50 high school students for the radio show Think Out Loud. All of the students had such thoughtful questions which made the conversation fly by fast. (More on the school visit here!)

After leaving Happy Valley we returned to the Literary Arts office in downtown Portland where preparations were happening for Grann’s lecture. The actual event wasn’t happening until hours later, but I accompanied one of my supervisors as she met with the staff at the Arlene Schnitzer to check that everything was running smoothly. Details like lighting, set decoration, sound had to be gone over as well as hospitality for Grann and the staff. Everyone involved was constantly in motion, confirming tasks had been completed and double-checking details up until the moment Grann stepped on stage. During the lecture and the audience Q&A I was able to stand backstage, which was an amazing view to hear him and the student poet that opened for him.  

As a freshman in college, this internship has been my first experience working inside a non-profit organization like Literary Arts. My whole internship I have been given the opportunity to work on real projects for the organization, and like the Grann visit, I have been learning as I go.  

As a student this hands-on educational opportunity is the best way for me to learn. No amount of explanation could be as instrumental to learning new skills as jumping right in could be.

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