During these uncertain times, SMoCA has invited artists and staff to utilize our blog Inspire as an outlet to make meaningful connections by sharing personal reflections and insight into their practice.
Reflecting on the Impact of Internships During Quarantine
As quarantine began, I was in the last stretch of my undergraduate degree in art history at Arizona State University. I completed my thesis defense over Zoom and watched my graduation ceremony via livestream. Graduating and searching for a job has been an isolating process, further intensified by this tumultuous time. The past few months were filled with anxiety and little escapes: watching true crime documentaries, fostering a pint-sized mutt, and baking loads of ginger molasses cookies.
Amid all this uncertainty, beginning the curatorial internship at SMoCA has reaffirmed why I studied art history and am pursuing a career in a museum. Internships have helped me gain knowledge of the different types of institutions, the roles of each position, and the work environment of various departments. What I’ve enjoyed most is seeing what goes into an exhibition; the initial planning, development, and completion, as well as how much work and detail go into every stage. The curriculum for my art history degree alone would not have prepared me to take on the daily demands of an entry-level job in a museum.
Throughout my internships at ASU Art Museum, LACMA, Phoenix Art Museum, and now SMoCA, I have come to appreciate how significant the role of mentorship is. It is critical for museum staff to share information about their career paths with less experienced people who are eager to get their foot in the door. My internships were shaped by women who are passionate about encouraging women just beginning in their field. They broadened my knowledge of museum practices and art history while providing valuable experience. And though it is unclear where the art world will lead from here, let alone the rest of the world, it is exciting for aspiring museum professionals like myself to see how things will evolve.
In this vein, I’d like to pass on a piece of advice I’ve received: seek out people who are doing what you want to do. For me, this currently takes the form of picking the brains of curators and alumni of art history graduate programs. It’s incredibly beneficial to talk to a possible mentor and discuss how they got to where they are in life, what their responsibilities entail, and what they wish they had known when they were just starting out. So, in this time of incoherency and separation, consider reaching out to someone you admire who can provide a bit of insight and maybe even a bit of direction.
Ruby Anderson, current SMoCA curatorial intern
Read more from our Museum Musings series.