I had a wonderful time at the Jewish Museum this summer. I learned so much about how the Museum runs and really felt like I was a part of the community there. As a public programs intern, I frequently interacted with the museum’s visitors. Before the internship began, I was nervous that I would find this aspect of the internship intimidating. However, communicating with the public during different programs I assisted with became one of my favorite parts of my internship. I loved feeling like a voice for the Museum and getting direct feedback on events hosted at the Museum.
One of the events I worked at was a day-long adult art class. This course focused on the self-portraits musician Leonard Cohen made throughout his lifetime, highlighted in the main summer exhibition at the Museum, Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything. In the class, we asked participants to create their own self portraits in a similar marriage of language and visuals to what Cohen used. One of my proudest moments during my internship was helping during this studio program. I had a lot of fun flexing my studio art background in my otherwise art history-focused internship. Additionally, it was really exciting to see the participants create such wonderful self portraits. I had no idea about the adult studio programming at the Museum before my internship, and I found it to be a really special aspect of the Museum’s community. At the end of the class, we hung up the portraits made by the participants in the hall and had a small critique. It’s a really special moment to see a piece displayed at a Museum then walk upstairs, in the same building, and see work made that day in response to the piece.
Working with the Museum’s public programming staff this summer has opened my eyes to all of the career opportunities available in the museum world. In school, it can seem that the only way to be involved in the museum world is by being a curator and having a strictly art historical background. However, many of the people I met in the education department have studio art backgrounds. There are so many ways to help people engage with art and it was a great opportunity to see that firsthand this summer. Even as an art history major, I find that going into museums can be intimidating sometimes. Working in the education department opened my eyes to the different ways we can connect to art and have a meaningful experience. I know I will take this knowledge with me in my future internships and, hopefully one day, a career in a museum.
I encourage anyone interested in an internship at the Jewish Museum, or any museum, to get out there and look at art! Go to museums and sit in front of work, draw work, attend events at museums you are close to — there are truly so many ways to interact with art and be involved in an art community. If you find it stressful to walk around an exhibition at a large museum, that is okay! There are a multitude of ways to engage with art every day, everywhere. Even something as small as photographing a mural on a wall in a city is a way with the art community around you and think about art in a new way. The art world is a big place with many different opportunities to be involved. Be open-minded and apply for different kinds of positions within museums and outside of museums, you never know what you might discover.