Cristina Del Sesto: Development of Documented Culture at the National Gallery

Cristina Del Sesto, working mother of one, wearing a powerful pantsuit and a contagious smile, is what some may call a woman of the world.

With her work ethic and world experience, Del Sesto leads the National Gallery of Art into partnerships with large corporations that help support its continued success, on its 75th anniversary this year. Currently, Del Sesto works as the deputy corporate relations officer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It is her job to convince companies to invest in the museum and to sponsor an exhibit. Through this position, Del Sesto helps to preserve a form of historical narrative that art provides for our world.

“Almost everyday is filled with rejection because I’m asking for money from companies and you can’t get a yes every time,” said Del Sesto. “Most of development work is a lot of rejection.”

She does not think though, that that type of environment is necessarily negative—especially since some level of rejection is present in all career paths.

“I think that you can learn a lot from rejection, maybe more than what you can learn from something that happens very easily,” she explained.

Before her time working in development, Del Sesto worked in a couple different environments.

“I had a long career in the corporate world,” she said. “This is my first development job I don’t have a lot of experience in non-profit.”

There are many components and skills that contribute to her work in development, that her prior experience at an internationally based business development company, as a freelance consultant and in other positions, helped her pick up.

During the earlier part of her career, Del Sesto worked for the Washington Post. Del Sesto started out as a runner at the Washington Post a week before graduating from Georgetown University. She also worked as a freelance and on staff writer for the paper.

It may not be expected that all those careers could intertwine but Del Sesto sees a connection.

Each day at work she begins by reading the latest headlines and researching, like one may research an interviewee, before entering an informational meeting in which she would need to convince a company, such as Faber-Castell—which is sponsoring the National Gallery’s Sketching is Seeing event—to sponsor an exhibit at the gallery.

“I think there is a relationship to journalism here—journalism has changed so much—but you can apply the rules of journalism to almost every single industry—everything you do,” she said. “What my task is, is to figure out what or which companies it would make sense for them to sponsor at the National Gallery. I do a lot of my research myself because, you’re developing a story in your head while you do research, but you do have other people researching as well.”

Her professional background is not the only factor that helps her succeed in her current occupation. One of her greatest hobbies, travel, has helped her along as well.

“I think all travel is important. It doesn’t matter where you are going,” said Del Sesto. “It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.”

With her love for travel and change, Del Sesto said that she sometimes misses the pace of journalism and has had to slow down for her new position in development for a non-profit. She also said that she is never comfortable in one place for too long. However, the reduced pace for the non-profit world is worth bending for Del Sesto because of her belief that art is so important.

“It is an incredible resource and I feel that art is that important. If you look at it through world history first thing a terrible leader does is destroy the art, art is always the target,” said Del Sesto. “It is civilization. It is what makes us human it expresses our humanity our ideas.”

The National Gallery will commemorate its 75-year anniversary through both March and April with different events. 75 Years/75 Stories will be held April 1 through April 3 and will consist of gallery talks led by museum experts and curators. Additionally, Sketching is Seeing will be held from March 25 through April 24 and a concert weekend will be hosted March 17 through March 20.

Photo by: Benjamin Reiser



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