Terri Schorzman, Director of the Boise City Department of Arts and History
The Boise City Department of Arts and History operates programs relating to public art, history and culture in the city. I talked to the Director, Terri Schorzman, about her position and a little more about what her department does.
The department contains three branches relating to public art, cultural programs and history. They offer online resources and guided tours of Boise’s public art, and their cultural programs include art classes, the Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts & History (held every two years), and seasonal events. Their history section, which includes the office of the City Historian, offers historical research services for those who inquire for help. History events the department operates include the Fettuccine Forum, a series of lectures held each year on topics including history, architecture, transportation and politics, and Depot Day, celebrating the historic Boise Depot and the city’s rich history of rail travel.
Terri Schorzman, the department’s Director, earned her Master’s degree in public history, and she supplemented her education by working for a state parks department cataloging artifacts and setting up an oral history program. She polished her skills as an archivist by completing an internship for a corporate archive. Her other experience includes running an international research program on science and technology history. Other necessary skills she developed for her position include marketing and communications, strategic planning, and grant writing.
Though her position as Director, she supports the department’s staff in running their projects. Through her position, she works with people holding many different occupations, including historians, artists, teachers and educators, graphic designers and technology specialists, communications professionals, politicians, accountants and attorneys.
The Department of Arts and History works to meet the goals of their (and the City’s) strategic plan. Because this is a chief goal, they often pick the projects they work on based upon the plans. They also work on projects that the City’s leadership requests. The department also works with citizens in completing some projects. These include grant programs and requests, as well as opportunities for public input on projects.
Schorzman says the salary level for those starting in her field is around the mid-$30,000s. While her skills that she honed before she took on her current position include research, archival work, cataloging artifacts, oral history, marketing, communications and grant writing, she noted that “curiosity and a willingness to figure something out” are essential skills to have as well. She recommended that diversity in your skills, and the willingness to try new things will help as an applicant. A Master’s degree would be necessary for advancement within the field. Her department looks for degrees within the fields of history, art and communications, as well as American Studies.
She told me that the issues facing her field are those that many fields face today, including a lack of funding and available jobs. In addition, people in her field face the issue of relevancy. People working in history, art and humanities careers find themselves having to convey the importance of their fields to many people.
In closing, she offered some extra advice for those starting out in the field of public history. She noted that job seekers should be mobile and willing to look all over for new opportunities, as there are often more openings in other regions, especially in larger cities. She stresses the importance of diversifying your skills and certifications, and also taking courses on technology applications.
I appreciate Terri Schorzman for answering my questions, and also for the work that the Boise City Department of Arts and History does in advancing appreciation for art and history in the city.