The Internship Experience in Arts Administration ☆
For Arts Administration (ARAD) students at Teachers College, participating in an internship of their choosing is a key component of the program. This experience goes beyond mere participation for most students as they engage in and truly enjoy their intern positions. Working in tandem with directors of development, directors of marketing, gallery curators and more, many students find that these practical settings compliment their classroom lessons.
“I entered the ARAD program with a significant amount of internship experience,” remarks Nicole Saint, a second year in the program. “For this reason I had only intended to participate in one internship, but I strayed from the plan (as usual), and I am glad. Each internship has come with a new set of experiences and contacts, and has given me a deeper understanding of the field. I am currently on my third.”
“I personally feel professional experience is key to getting a holistic understanding of the industry,” says Pearl Kermani, also a second year in the program. “You can only learn so much in a classroom or in books. To truly learn you need to be in the thick of it. My internship experience had a very positive influence on my time in the program.”
The internship requirement was once handled by a second year student of ARAD before the position of Internship Coordinator was formally created. “I’ve been working towards ways to make the internship program run more efficiently,” says Juliana Driever, the current Internship Coordinator. Juliana keeps all ARAD students apprised of current internships via a weekly email and follows their feedback in order to create career-oriented programs in conjunction with the Office of Career Services. Juliana is also forging new relationships with arts organizations that could offer beneficial internship positions in years to come.
“I am working towards increasing the number of relationships that ARAD has with cultural institutions by reaching out individually to the administrators (in some cases, alumni) who oversee these programs,” she describes. “I want the relationships that the program develops to be much more strategic and sustainable than a simple handshake deal to promote opportunities and pass along resumes.”
“Not all internships have been created equally,” Nicole remarks on the abundance of opportunities available. “But if you position yourself in an opportunity where you are working with a supervisor who understands the educational nature of internships, in a role and institution you would like to learn more about, there is much to be gained.”
“It is my thought that the ARAD internship program should be first and foremost an academic program,” Juliana agrees. “I am working to identify internship opportunities that set a high bar in terms of the kind of hands-on learning, training and networking experiences they can provide. Those are the settings I want to see ARADers in – rigorous, academic, meaningful.”
Students in the ARAD program concentrate their studies in either the Visual or Performing Arts, but there are innumerable specializations within each of these overarching disciplines. Students currently research and interview for their own internship positions, some of which are found from Juliana’s weekly internship announcement. ARAD interns work with a wide expanse of arts organizations: from Lincoln Center to the Public Theatre. The opportunities students will have once their position has been secured can also vary greatly, depending on the capacity of each organization.
“Typically I think the smaller the organization, the more opportunities there are to insert oneself into the current projects of the department or one’s immediate supervisor,” Juliana describes. “In larger organizations, typically, I think interns take on a more focused role. One may enter a department of a large organization with, say, a staff of thirty people, all of whom function in very specific roles within that area of operation. So, the tasks may be more singular, and opportunities for trying different kinds of work may be limited.”
“Ultimately, it is all about the supervisor,” Juliana continues. “No matter what the host organization – big or small – the relationship with your supervisor makes all the difference. If you find someone who mentors you and supports your advancement as an arts administrator, that relationship can lead to projects of real substance.”
“I think that good supervisors are respectful of your time and your goals and make an effort to communicate how your work fits into the broader mission of the department and organization,” remarks Nicole. “I think that the most essential components of good internship experiences are respect and communication.”
“The most important thing for me was the support and understanding from my supervisor,” Pearl agrees. “I was very lucky with my internship and had a very supportive supervisor who would push me to try new things. She would also listen to issues I was having or questions I had about the industry and provide advice. . . During my internship, I felt like she was invested in my success, and her support is invaluable.”
This semester Juliana is creating an expanded version of the former internship agreement designed to aid students in defining, and later in measuring, the learning objectives they hope to achieve. Future semesters will include a Symposium for all interns to convene and reflect on their experiences, and a mid-semester on-site visit where Juliana will visit each intern at their host organization. She would also like students to become better educated on the proper workplace procedures and their rights during an internship by encouraging them to learn more about the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“Moving forward, I would like to see more emphasis placed on student reflection on the internship, after it’s completed,” Juliana adds. “I’d like to create a greater sense of student and host investment in that process.”
Juliana concludes: “The deeper the relationship runs, the more meaningful the outcomes will be for all involved.”
– Pearl Kermani worked and studied full time as a Productions Fellow for The Public Theatre.
– Nicole Saint has held three positions since becoming an ARAD student: as a Curatorial and Live Programs Intern for MoMA PS1, as a Marketing Intern for the Whitney Museum of American Art, and as an External Affairs Intern for the Guggenheim Museum.