By Brenda Erickson
Erika Österberg has served as the assistant manager of visitor services at the Colorado State Capitol since 2014.
After growing up in Colorado, Österberg lived in New York City for 10 years, where she completed her degree in art history at SUNY Empire State College, and entered the field of visitor services. She first worked at the American Museum of Natural History and then at the Museum of Modern Art, where she spent six years as a visitor services manager overseeing as many as 50 temporary and full-time staff members.
In her time at MoMA, Österberg helped guide her team through several record-setting blockbuster exhibits, including “Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night,” “Tim Burton” and “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present.”
With daily attendance of up to 15,000 visitors, these exhibits taught Österberg that even during the most stressful times, kindness, courtesy, and patience are of paramount importance when working with the public and in building a strong and trusting team.
Upon returning home to Colorado, Österberg worked briefly at the Denver Art Museum before coming to the Capitol in 2014.
Österberg feels very grateful to work alongside such an exceptional team and to do such meaningful work. She is very proud to have contributed to the development of a successful visitor services program at the Capitol, where her responsibilities include volunteer management; internal and external communications and publications; daily operations and tour logistics; and special event planning.
Österberg and her husband are the parents of two sons. They spend their free time exploring the Rocky Mountains, visiting museums and historic sites, taking lots of pictures, and enjoying life as active Coloradans.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
My first professional job was at the “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” biweekly radio show. The show had recently launched when I stumbled across a listing for an internship there. My first job was watching old B-movies, from beach party movies to sci-fi to film noir, to transcribing fun clips that were played between songs. We must have watched 200 movies in the first couple months!
From there, I moved up the ladder and loved the two years I spent learning about rock and roll history from an actual icon in the field! While Little Steven [Steven Van Zandt] was not often in the office, his dedication and deep love for the subject was contagious and his work ethic was incredible. While on a world tour with the E Street Band and performing every night, he still oversaw all facets of his show, which he wrote, researched and recorded himself.
I learned that there are no limits to achievement when you love what you do. And I got to see the E Street Band at Giants Stadium three nights in a row!
How did you get into this field?
I studied art history and always dreamed of working in a museum, though a curatorial path or a career in teaching was not of much interest to me. I didn’t know anything about the field of visitor services until I happened upon a part-time VS position at the American Museum of Natural History, selling tickets and ushering for the IMAX and space shows, while I was still in college.
I fell in love with the job right away. I’d always been somewhat shy, but I was surprised at how comfortable I was and how much I loved engaging with the public in my role. I felt so honored to be a representative of such an important institution and found that even minor interactions carry a lot of weight in a visitor’s experience.
What gives you a great sense of achievement?
Seeing the success of our staff is so satisfying. A nice compliment from a visitor, a glowing review on a travel website, or the beautiful “thank-you” drawings we receive from our many field trippers means we are doing our job. There is no greater reward.
Brenda Erickson is a policy principal in NCSL’s Legislative Staff Services Program and serves as a co-liaison to the National Legislative Services and Security Association (NLSSA). NLSSA is one of nine professional staff associations at NCSL.