Career Counciling for Women in the Arts: Muriel Cooper & Elizabeth Cook

Two interviews from a series highlighting women with careers in the arts. This tape includes interviews with Muriel Cooper, Media Director for M.I.T. Press, and Elizabeth Cook, Director of Boston's Office of Cultural Affairs.

00:07Copy video clip URL Introductory card: “Career Counciling for Women in the Arts. A Woman and Career Options Project by Pat Lehman, copyright 1975. Funded by the Carnegie Foundation.” A recording of Antonio Vivaldi’s Flute Concerto in D Major plays on the soundtrack. 

00:34Copy video clip URL Onscreen text: Muriel Cooper, Media Director, M.I.T. Press. 

00:39Copy video clip URL Cooper sits at her desk. She says that she is “approaching my half century” and that, because there are so few women allowed in her field, she has “been a token woman a lot.” High percentage of women in art school versus those who are given jobs in design. 

01:31Copy video clip URL Cooper discusses her job as Media Director for M.I.T. Press and her background as a designer and teacher. The differences between working in advertising and working for an institution like M.I.T. Press.

05:25Copy video clip URL The contrast between being an administrator and being a single artist working on one’s own. Learning to let go of her defensiveness about her designs “in order to accomplish more.”

06:26Copy video clip URL Cooper’s aim at M.I.T. being “to affect mass communication on a basic, direct level – the visual aspect of it – and also to influence content through visual terms. ” Choosing to come to M.I.T. Press for the challenge, but also because a book is so much more lasting and having more value than the usual freelance design work in advertising.

09:02Copy video clip URL Being a woman in the business world. Being conscious of salary discrepancy but not of overt discrimination. Cooper thinks her salary is likely in the top 2% for women in the United States, and that she can’t complain about her own situation but that she is very aware of widespread discrimination in publishing and design.

11:59Copy video clip URL What makes her want to accomplish things. Musing about possible deep psychological motivations. Trying to learn “to achieve less, with less effort.” She agonizes a lot over her work, she says.

13:27Copy video clip URL The productive and counterproductive aspects of agonizing over her work too much. Treating administration “like a design problem.” 

14:37Copy video clip URL Learning about the nature of design problems through experience rather than through training or education.

15:18Copy video clip URL What she would have done differently: “I would have gone into analysis, instead of therapy.” The camera pans to Cooper’s shoeless feet, which are propped up on her desk. 

16:02Copy video clip URL The dangers of mishandling power. Learning management not through explicit training but through experience making for a more humane administrator. Her path might have been simpler, she speculates, if she hadn’t rejected so much dogma about management and so much of management/administrative culture. 

18:51Copy video clip URL Holding a sandwich in her hand, Cooper talks about “female competitiveness,” joking about Freud and about penis envy and eating a “hero sandwich, not a heroine sandwich.” She muses about people thinking of her as “a ball-breaker” and “out to castrate all the men around you” because they’re threatened by her. She thinks that’s “probably a crock of shit that can be disposed of as easily as this sandwich” but that it’s something that women need to be wary of. 

21:01Copy video clip URL It being an exciting time in art: “I’ve always liked frontiers, and I think this frontier is breaking.” Being on “the threshold of synthesizing a lot of human capabilities,” with art being the place where they are brought together. 

22:40Copy video clip URL Whether women have to care more and “break your ass” more than men.

24:00Copy video clip URL Advice for women: “Know yourself best. Allow yourself to fail. And at the same time make yourself do better every time. And don’t kill yourself because you’ve screwed it. And learn as much as you can every time you fail. And, finally, find out what’s best and focus as best you can. And, I guess, most of all be honest in what you do and how you behave.” 

25:34Copy video clip URL The mistake of thinking that “life is gonna be happy.” What she’s learned from being a teacher. As the tape comes to an end, Cooper takes a big bite of her sandwich and jokes “now we can actually talk!”

27:57Copy video clip URL End of Muriel Cooper interview. Introductory card returns. “Elizabeth Cook. Director/Office of Cultural Affairs, Boston.” 

28:06Copy video clip URL Elizabeth Cook sits at her desk. She discusses the number of people the office employs during the summer, when Boston holds dozens of neighborhood arts festivals and other events. The growth of winter programming, including in schools.

29:06Copy video clip URL Cultural/ethnic celebrations for communities in Boston. 

29:53Copy video clip URL Opportunities for women in the arts are “unbounded” but that women often don’t have the kind of experience needed to run large institutions like the Museum of Fine Arts. The need in business and administration for social skills. Seeing job possibilities for artists. 

31:50Copy video clip URL The different positions in her office. 



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