Next up is Beth Shook, GMU Alum.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I finished my MA in Art History at GMU in August 2012. My focus was modern Latin American art. I now work in the education department at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, TX, where I research and write interpretive materials, oversee tour scheduling, do some gallery teaching, and help manage the department budget.
How did you come to be an intern at the Corcoran and SAAM?
In Washington I had two internship experiences at museums: first as an undergraduate Curatorial Intern for American Art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and later as an Advanced Level Intern at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. For both the Corcoran and SAAM, I had to submit pretty substantive paper applications with reference letters. At the Corcoran I interviewed with a curator. Both museums have really well organized internship programs, which was a big draw.
What are/were your responsibilities as an intern?
The SAAM internship spans two semesters with the opportunity of interning in two different departments. During the fall I worked in the Center for Research and Scholars, which oversees fellowships and the American Art journal. There I mostly did fact-checking for the fellows’ articles, which required a lot of thorough online, print and archival research. I also was able to assist with programming for the third of five Terra Symposia on American Art in a Global Context. I spent the spring semester in the curatorial office, where I researched and wrote wall texts for an installation of prints from the collection. My position at the Corcoran had similar responsibilities.
What surprised you about the experience?
In the curatorial internships, particularly at the Corcoran, I was surprised by the amount of freedom I was given in writing labels (once I received some guidance and assigned reading). It is very gratifying to see your research and writing play such a vital and visible role for museum audiences, especially in DC, where visitors can range from tourists to academics. I was also pleased to see how a museum internship can lead to real employment opportunities. It’s all about making connections and understanding museum operations.
What are your future plans?
We have some exciting exhibitions opening later this year at the Blanton, so that is about as far ahead as I’m looking right now.
What advice would you give to other students looking for an internship?
Seek out a supervisor or internship coordinator who is invested in helping you grow professionally. And don’t be afraid to ask about funding opportunities.