On April 1, 2011 the graphic design students of West Potomac Academy were in for a treat. They were graced by Tim Smith, an exhibit/lighting specialist who shared his colorful academic journey (including a fine art degree with a concentration in sculpting) and his pursuit to be a designer at the world’s largest museum and research complexes, the Smithsonian Institution. Tim, a presenter at AIGA DC’s Mentoring Program Speaker Series, welcomed the opportunity to share his knowledge about the museum industry, and to inspire these young minds.
Like previous sessions, the series began before 8am with students varying in attentiveness. Tim set up his presentation which included a nifty slide show, a mannequin head and small electronic picture frame that flashed a multitude of model making photos. These items allowed him to talk endlessly about his background while also keep the attention of the students. Throughout, he engaged the class with questions and conversation related to museum visits, exhibits they were often drawn to, and the relationship between space, lighting and design as it applied to most disciplines. An important question he asked ultimately became the basis of his talk and the reason why he was there: “What do you want to accomplish within the next five years?”
Smith discussed his personal transition from a student studying sculpture into a small museum model maker in North Carolina and then into his current position as a staffer at the Smithsonian Institute. He talked about how once you’ve found your passion you pursue it until you can’t anymore, giving examples that included extensive research, persistence after being rejected from jobs, and using contacts to get his foot in the door. Confident and hard-working, Tim made it clear that he contributes his success to his aggressiveness and his can do/will do attitude. He encouraged the students to explore this path and also seek out a mentor to guide them along their way.
Having delivered on his promise to help inspire and enlighten the high school students of West Potomac Academy about his life and career, it was evident the students were not yet ready for Tim to leave. Some took the opportunity to gain advice about what he sees beyond their high school years (such as Smithsonian Internship opportunities), while others wanted him to give honest critiques about their work. By then of the day, Tim had inevitably made his mark and equipped these youth with the tools they needed to pursue their passions.
Dian Holton is the AIGA Washington DC Chapter Mentoring Chair. For more information about the Mentoring Speaker Series please contact Dian at dian(at)aigadc(dot)org.