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.
I love working at the Jewish Museum. Growing up outside of New York City, I had the frequent privilege of walking along Museum Mile throughout high school. It was always a dream to be able to work at an institution on Museum Mile, in the company of so much great work. This summer, at the Jewish Museum, I have the opportunity to be surrounded by these museums that I admired so much when I first began to study art. In my work at the Jewish Museum I am doing research for an upcoming exhibition about a female art dealer named Edith Halpert. In addition to the research I am doing at the Jewish Museum itself, I am also doing research in the extensive Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is an opportunity I have because I am at a Museum on Museum Mile and can easily visit the many museums in this area during the workday. As I am going into my senior year at Brandeis, I am beginning the process of writing a thesis in art history during my time at the Jewish Museum. As I develop my research skills in my work for the museum, I am also able to take advantage of the Museum’s archives to develop my own research I will use in the coming year.
My World of Work internship allows me to see how my academic training in art history translates to the active art world. A museum is a business, after all, and there is so much that goes into getting the awesome art on display. In my internship, I am learning so much about the inner workings of a museum. As public programs intern, I interact with many people who are featured in the evening events hosted by the Museum. This past week, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City held a concert at the Museum. Part of my job included ordering the pizza for students before the concert. While this may not seem like the most glamorous aspect of art institutions, these young performers needed dinner! Although ordering pizza is not directly related to art, this part of museum work is imperative to creating good programming. As much as I love the research I get to do at the Museum, this part of my internship makes me proud because it relates to the Museum’s ability to function smoothly. In addition to a chore like this, I am assisting in the day-to-day tasks that go into programming for a museum, such as managing contracts and sitting in on meetings regarding the logistics of these events. I am gaining a lot of organizational and technical skills that are crucial to the smooth running of art institutions. I love the academic side of art history but I find it exciting to do the tasks that may seem less creative — this is the work experience I’ll need to bring my creative ideas into fruition in a gallery, museum, auction house or other sorts of art space one day.
Hannah Kressel ’20
I started my internship at the Jewish Museum (https://thejewishmuseum.org) four weeks ago. I am working as the Public Programs intern at the Museum, assisting with all public programming and with longer term research tasks for the education department, as a whole. The Jewish Museum is a museum dedicated to the preservation, understanding, and enjoyment of the artistic and cultural heritage of the Jewish people. The museum is located on Manhattan’s Museum Mile, neighboring the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, among many others. This location has proved very useful to me as an intern as I am often asked to conduct research in one of the neighboring museums.
Additionally, in my job as a public programs intern, I am working on events often sponsored or in conjunction with other museums along the Museum Mile. For example, one of the first events I staffed as an intern was the annual Museum Mile evening in June when all the museums within these parameters are open extra hours and for free. This was a great introduction to the communal culture of the museums in this part of Manhattan. For this event, the Jewish Museum hosted a band to play outside of the Museum for the night and a craft for people walking by. My work as the public program’s intern included preparing for this craft and assisting the band throughout the night, as needed.
The Jewish Museum has quite a robust program of events throughout the summer and I love being able to help out with these different occasions. I have had the opportunity to engage with the public on behalf of the Museum at all of these events, whether it be a concert or an adult studio class, and in each instance I find myself learning and gaining skills. I love discussing the exhibitions with visitors — honing my skills and perspectives on museum education — and being a source of information about the museum as an institution to guests. I find that, in these experiences, I am learning skills I wouldn’t learn in academia. The ability to transfer information accurately to all different demographics of the Museum’s patrons is something I am working hard to gain and become comfortable with.
As I am expanding my knowledge of art history in the research I do during the day for the education department, in the evenings and on weekends at various events, I am given the opportunity to share this information and receive feedback. Throughout the rest of my internship, I hope to continue to hone these skills and learn more about what it means to be a representative of a cultural institution interacting with all different members of the Museum’s community — staff, museum patrons, and artists invited to the museum for various programs. Additionally, I hope to expand my knowledge of the Museum’s collection and become as well-versed as possible in contemporary methods of education and research within cultural institutions.
This is a photo of me working at the craft table during Museum Mile a few weeks back.
Hannah Kressel ’20