Interviews With Friends
Summer Internship Reflections
On August 14, Erin Hylton, School Programs Coordinator, sat down with three college interns at the end of their summer internships in the programming departments of Community Engagement and Public Programs and Education, to reflect and share their experience at the Studio Museum with each other.
Justin Allen, the summer 2013 intern in The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Public Programs and Community Engagement department, is a rising senior and poetry major at the New School's Eugene Lang College. Harlemite Dyeemah Simmons studies Studio Art and English at Oberlin College, and this summer, she was an Education Department intern through Studio in a School's ARTSIntern program. Asha Whale, a Brooklyn native, came to intern at came to intern at the Studio Museum through the Jeanette K. Watson Fellowship; she is a History major at the City College of New York.
What do you do as interns in the Education department?
Dyeemah Simmons: We research artists for upcoming exhibitions, help prepare for art-making workshops, and observe tours in preparation for leading our own.
Asha Whale: We do research for the about artist in the current and upcoming exhibitions, observe tours and prepare materials and workshop ideas for museums educators. Sometimes we drop off donations to different educations centers here in Harlem. Every once in a while we do regular intern stuff like make copies and telephone calls.
What have you learned about the Museum through this internship?
DS: I have learned that the Studio Museum is really special and unique—in its mission, varied audience, and broad scope of artwork. I love how connected the Museum is to Harlem, but also how people from outside of the community are welcomed with open arms.
AW: I learned how this museum and museums in general serve local, national and global communities by using art as a catalyst for lager discussions. The fact that the majority of the work here is by artist of African descent gives visitors the opportunity to discuss concepts of race and identity in a truly unique space. While working here, I have observed participants discovering parts of themselves during discussions in the gallery. Growing up, I always liked going to museums, but I wasn’t really aware of the social impact they could have.
What new artists have you discovered and what do you like about their work?
DS: I really like Robert Pruitt [the subject of the Studio Museum's summer 2013 exhibition Women]’s work. Besides being incredibly beautiful, textured drawings, I am interested in what Pruitt is saying about black culture and why he has chosen women to convey this message. I also really like Valerie Piraino’s work [featured in the Studio Museum's summer 2013 exhibition, Body Language]. Her pieces are very delicate yet forceful, with their hints of memories that the viewer can’t really access.
AW: While working here I discovered artists such as Robert Pruitt and Adam Pendleton [also on view in Body Language]. I really like Pruitt’s portraits because the subjects are both strikingly familiar and foreign to me. Pendleton’s work is fascinating to me because it is aesthetically clean but contextually complex.
Which project or assignment have you enjoyed working on the most?
DS: I really enjoyed researching all of the artists for the summer exhibitions. When all of the work went up, I felt personally connected to many of the artists. Doing the research has really reinforced the importance of context when thinking about artwork.
AW: I loved doing the research for the educator packets, which have information about every artist in the summer 2013 exhibition season. Through assembling them, I inevitably learned a lot about the artists and their processes. They took forever to complete, but the knowledge that I gained was well worth the time!
Where do you see this internship leading you?
DS: Interning here has shown me how much I enjoy discussing art and helping others connect to it. It has also inspired me to create more art of my own. I would always like to be a part of a community who appreciates art and its power to shape individuals.
AW: Honestly before working here, I didn’t see myself working in a museum. I thought that I would apply the knowledge I acquired here to teaching in another setting. Working here actually has me considering a career in museum education.
Justin, what were some of your roles as the Community Engagement intern?
Justin Allen: I helped organize public programs, such as Uptown Fridays, artist talks and performances at the Museum.
What is the most important thing you have learned working here?
JA: The necessity of paperwork and sending emails. It sounds funny, but the majority of work for our department—and office jobs in general I’m discovering—happens through email interactions. It’s not something I expected at a museum job, but sending email is just as important as meetings and off-site visits.
Have you learned anything about the Harlem community through interning at the Studio Museum?
JA: I live in Brooklyn; if it weren’t for this internship, I wouldn’t find myself uptown that often. 125thStreet is a real place to me now, not just an abstraction representing Black history.
What is your favorite current exhibition? Why?
JA: Body Language. I like the concept of exploring the overlapping notions of the body and text.
What are you most proud of achieving during your internship?
JA: I’ve become very vocal since interning here, thanks to my supervisor Edwin [Ramoran, Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement] who encouraged my ideas. It’s given me the opportunity to propose ideas on a platform I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s exciting to see my suggestions come into fruition.
Erin Hylton is the School Programs Coordinator at The Studio Museum in Harlem.