by William Valerio
When I was in college, my internships at the Just Above Midtown gallery in New York and New Yorker magazine were formative experiences that gave me an insider’s view into professions that I ultimately decided were and were not meant for me. So I’m delighted that, in the spirit of giving back, Woodmere is able to offer internships to several students each summer—even this year, when all work must by necessity be done remotely.
This year we have six interns: two in high school, two in college, and two graduate students in art history. Their projects include collection research, preparing for upcoming exhibitions, drafting text for the Museum’s website, assisting with digital marketing campaigns, helping with education programs on Zoom, and making promotional videos. Young people bring energy and fresh ideas, and they are especially important in stretching our ability with technology.
My thoughts turn to interns because last Friday I received an email from a former intern of ours, Xavier Brooks, who worked with us twice, in fact. In the summer of 2015, Xavier assisted with our summer camp, helping with daily activities, facilitating the experiences of younger kids, setting up supplies for art projects, and serving as right hand to the instructors. A photograph from that experience (see above) shows a smiling Xavier with one of the campers.
The following summer, Xavier had completed his sophomore year of college and was accepted for another internship at the Museum through a program called Arts Intern, which provides paid museum internships to college students from diverse backgrounds with the goal of inspiring future museum professionals. Xavier, together with our second, equall impressive Arts Intern, Nahfeese Thompson, researched, scripted, and produced several videos for the exhibition, A Million Faces: The Photography of John W. Mosley, which you can view on our website here.
After graduating from college in 2018, Xavier started working in the banking sector, so I was delighted to learn from his email that he has been promoted to manager, supervising younger hires. What does all this mean in terms of the museum field? While at Woodmere, Xavier learned about 20th-century photography, about what it means to be a teacher, about how to be part of a team, and about what a dedicated workplace is like.
He may not work in a museum today, but he visits them. Perhaps one day he will be a museum volunteer or serve on a not-for-profit board. As we take action to move our public institutions and private businesses toward social equity, internships are an important way to advance that work.
William Valerio is the director and CEO of Woodmere Art Museum.