Summer Experience: Shannon Cleary reaffirms her University plans

BGSU Honors student hones in on dream of staying connected to dance through public relations

shannon-cleary
Shannon Cleary, right, at her summer internship at Ballet in the City.

This summer was full of rewarding work, as I had the opportunity to intern at a non-profit performing arts organization that combined both my passions and majors at Bowling Green State University: public relations and dance.   

I have danced since I was 2 and a half years old, and knew that I wanted to make it a large part of my career. But I didn’t want the lifestyle of a performer, so that is where public relations comes in to play. My dream career is to do public relations work in the performing arts industry, allowing me to cultivate the art of dance through my PR skillset. So, an internship with a performing arts organization was a perfect fit, allowing me to gain valuable knowledge and experience in the non-profit sector and performing arts industry.  

Based out of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, between Cleveland and Akron, Ballet in the City presents professional ballet performances, programming and events in cities around the nation. The company is not a dance school with students, but instead a presenting organization on a mission to cultivate and enhance the unique culture of ballet across the country.  

I served as the public relations intern at Ballet in the City, and my first project this summer was to work as the event coordinator for a “Guys Dance Too” program event. I had been working with my supervisor over email to plan the event before summer break started. The “Guys Dance Too” program performed at an Akron RubberDucks minor-league baseball game, and the organization raised funds during the game. I served as the liaison between Ballet in the City volunteers and RubberDucks staff. I had officially started as an intern that weekend, and I got to go to a baseball game and see a dance performance, so it was a pretty awesome first day of work!

My duties at Ballet in the City included conducting research, coordinating and working events, creating marketing materials, contacting potential collaborators and supporting social media. I worked with the professional graphic designer, gaining feedback on my own graphics, most of which were posted on the organization’s social media accounts. The skills I honed in my PR classes made my graphics stand out. Professional dancers and popular dance industry companies, such as Discount Dance Supply, posted my graphics and received a lot of engagement on them. It was incredibly rewarding and surreal to see professionals in the dance world sharing my designs. With programming all over the United States and collaborations all around the world, I was able to make connections and contacts that will benefit me immensely as I continue searching for internships and jobs.  

During my internship, I researched social media tactics and new ways to engage Ballet in the City followers. This research sparked my ideas for a fun contest on Instagram and a Live Twitter Takeover that engaged current followers and earned Ballet in the City even more social media followers. I also researched potential collaborators for Ballet in the City to work with in regards to its line of nail polish and private label coffee and wine. I was able to help expand these collections by finding new ways online and within the organization to promote them.  

Because Ballet in the City is a non-profit, I learned a lot about fundraising and sponsorships. I was in charge of contacting Pittsburgh companies to gauge interest in placing ads in the playbill for a show being presented there in September. I thoroughly researched each company’s values and brand to assess if they were a good fit. I then made professional phone calls and sent emails to secure ads and sponsors for the show. Fundraising was definitely one of the hardest parts of my internship because you really have to be determined, flexible and persistent to earn funds.  

My favorite part of my internship was the Ballet in the City trip to Saratoga Springs, New York, the summer home of the New York City Ballet. I helped plan and coordinate the itinerary for the trip and sent internal and external communications to parents and staff about trip details. I was fortunate enough to attend the three-day trip as a staff member. I met professional dancers from the New York City Ballet and a professional Opera Saratoga singer, toured the National Museum of Dance, and attended a performance of the New York City Ballet. I really couldn’t believe I was on a trip for “work.”

During the trip, I helped register guests for the master classes we hosted, organized and set up materials for lectures and Q&A sessions, and observed some professional dance photo shoots. I also interviewed two professional dancers and wrote posts for the Ballet in the City blog. I was so appreciative they took the time to answer my questions with their crazy schedules.

I spent a lot of time with my supervisor on the trip, who provided valuable insight on working in the performing arts industry. I learned that being able to adapt is one of the most important keys to success since the arts are so unpredictable. My supervisor made my internship a very enriching experience, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities I was given.  

My internship was the perfect culmination of my two majors and gave me incredible, real world experience. This summer affirmed how rewarding my majors are for me, and I can’t wait to continue learning and developing my PR skills during my final two years of college. I know I’ll be prepared for the real world with the skills I am gaining from my coursework and opportunities at BGSU.