You Should Know… Alessandra Dreyer

Alessandra Dreyer (Photo by Hannah Monicken)

Alessandra Dreyer likes to just go where life takes her, whether that’s almost getting a master’s in folk studies or turning 30 and deciding to move across the country. Until she makes that move, though, the Washington native is a gallery attendant co-coordinator for the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

How did you come to work at a museum?
Well, I started with a show at the Hirshhorn and ended up staying on for the Ai Wei Wei show and a few other things. After that, I moved over to [my current position]. I’m going to be here for a little while longer. And then I’m going to see what California has to offer.

Oh, you’re moving? Why California?
Why not? I’m 30, I have no dependents, why not just do something different? And California seemed different enough.

So, you just hit 30 and were like, ‘I’m ready to do something else.’
Literally that. I turned 30 and I was like, ‘I need to do something different for a year. I’m going to try out California.’ If something sticks, great. If not, I can just come back.

What’s it like working in a museum?
It’s actually like any nice retail gig, honestly. People always want something more glamorous than that, but the area I work in is very much high-end retail — you’re dealing with visitors every day, answering questions and occasionally you lead them to the gift shop where they spend money. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. It’s a great job, but it’s like any other job you have.

What’s the most fun part of your job?
I really love when a kid comes up to me and asks a question. And they get that look in their eye when you tell them something that’s activated something in their brain. That’s the best moment. And there can be a tendency to brush them off, but it’s like, no, if you’ve got their attention, absorb it and milk it for all it’s worth.

Do you have a personal favorite museum?
I would honestly say the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Point one for it: It’s got the best cafeteria out of all of them. But it’s also such a tribute to what community engagement can do to make a museum work.

I noticed in your Twitter bio said “recovering folklorist.” What does that mean?
Oh, I was on a different path for a while. I was getting a master’s in folk studies, but I ended up going into a different field. That’s really it. I ended up in Kentucky for about a year studying folklore and it was interesting. It was also very — I’m not the most religious Jew, but it’s really noticeable when you’re the only Jew there.

How would you describe your Jewish identity?
Laughable. [Laughs] I’m an interfaith kid, raised with Chanukah and Christmas. Both of my parents really just wanted to instill values and spirituality, but they didn’t care what umbrella that fell under. So, I’ve sort of formed an identity for myself that’s a little bit Jewish, a little bit Lutheran and a little bit of whatever interests me. I always say I’m more culturally Jewish.

What aspects of the Jewish part did you keep?
Tikkun olam is what I live my life by and what I try to filter my worldview through.

When you’re not working, what else are you doing?
I’m learning how to brew beer right now.

What kind of beers do you like to brew?
I like doing weird ones. So, right now I’m doing an Earl Grey IPA. I like trying to find ways to introduce florals into my beer. Lavender can pair really well with a lot of different kinds of beer. I’m trying to figure out how to do a lavender saison right now.

Once you’ve made a batch of beer, what do you do with it?
I drink it. That’s literally it. I mean, I have friends come over and taste it and give opinions on it. It’s something I’m still in the process of learning how to do. What the future may hold in a few years is a whole different story. I would love to maybe get to the point where I could have my own brewery. But right now I’m just playing around and seeing what happens.

There’s not a lot of women doing home brewing. So that’s cool.
Yeah, there is a stereotype of a homebrewer and I know I don’t fit that really. But I enjoy it. I love cooking, I love baking and this feels almost like a natural subsection. The thing is, women used to be the primary brewers up until like the ‘70s.

You’re just following in the footsteps of our foremothers.
Our fore-drinkers.

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