This summer, I was a Public Engagement and Curatorial intern with the Institute of Contemporary Art. Because these were two separate positions, I essentially split my time between both departments, under the Director of Public Engagement and the Director of Curatorial Affairs, respectively. Being able to work in these two different but equally essential areas gave me a uniquely rewarding and comprehensive perspective of contemporary art museum work that I would not have received otherwise. Overall, I am grateful for the meaningful work I was able to complete during my tenure at the ICA as well as the valuable experience I gained.
My Public Engagement work was centered around the ICA Student Board. My goals for the summer was to create a plan for the Student Board in light of the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year; this involved researching the upcoming shows at ICA and ways the Student Board could connect students with ICA through programming, developing a social media plan for the Student Board, and restructuring Board so it could maintain a strong and consistent identity. To do this, I worked closely with Natalie Sandstrom, the Program Coordinator at ICA. At the beginning of my internship, I was presented with a timeline of my tenure, highlighting different objectives for each week, such as “Build upon the current PE spreadsheet with contact information for various student orgs, expanding this to institutions outside of Penn. Establish tangible goals for how SB will engage with specific student populations.” After conducting research, which included meeting with various staff members at ICA such as curators or the Director of Marketing and Communications, I would write up a formal Action Item and present my findings to my supervisor. I am extremely grateful for the agency this provided me, allowing me to take initiative in developing plans for the Student Board. This ultimately culminated in a formal document that compiled all the Action Items I produced that was submitted to my supervisor to be implemented in the coming year.
In doing this, I learned how to efficiently develop creative and impactful programs geared towards Penn students, which also related to the content of the shows at ICA. All of these programs were suited to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through having the opportunity to meet with a wide range of ICA staff members from various departments, ranging from Curatorial, to Marketing, to Development, I was able to get an enlightening overview of all the different but essential components of running a contemporary art museum. I also gained valuable public relations and marketing insight, especially from a digital standpoint, as I was able to work with ICA’s marketing and communications department to develop the Student Board’s identity.
The second part of my internship was Curatorial, through which I gained firsthand experience with all the ins and outs of creating an art exhibition at ICA. I worked on maintaining budget spreadsheets for both past and upcoming shows at ICA as well as developing COVID-19 related instructional documents in lieu of ICA re-opening. I attended Curatorial Department meetings , where I learned key information on the process of developing publications such as Gallery Notes and catalogs. The bulk of my work with Curatorial was on the upcoming exhibition on Milford Graves, to open in the fall of 2020. I regularly attended weekly planning meetings, during which I took minutes, while learning about both the logistical and creative aspects of curating a contemporary art show. I also developed a budget tracking spreadsheet that would be used during the production of the exhibition. Throughout the summer, I compiled a bibliography of Milford Graves’ library that would be used for the exhibition.
This experience gave me crucial knowledge about the process of curating a contemporary art show. I learned important skills, such as how to manage spreadsheets and an art museum’s budget, while also interacting closely with curators and other key players at ICA.