Students gain experience from summer arts internships

Two Wheaton students made good use of their art courses this summer,  taking on challenging internships that prepared them for a career after Wheaton.

Emily Swalec ’14 spent her summer at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum of Art in the Costume and Textiles department. Swalec started her summer by updating a website with ten years of backlogged exhibition records, and then moved on to research incoming pieces. She also pulled items off exhibition to be cleaned and moved to permanent storage.

“It was really great to see the breadth of the collection. Their costume and textiles collection is more than one fourth of everything in the museum,” Swalec explained. She also excitedly raved that there are between 25,000-30,000 pieces, ranging from ancient Egyptian dress to more contemporary pieces straight off the runway.

In addition to hands-on experience, Swalec’s internship also had academic benefits.

“One thing I thought was really great about the RISD program, and a reason why I would totally recommend to other students, is because it’s sponsored through the Mellon Foundation so there’s an educational component.”

Every Wednesday, Swalec attended a full day seminar in which she could interact with people from different departments within the museum. This academic experience enhanced her depth of knowledge as well as her interaction with art history as a career.

Erin Wolf ’15 worked in the Collections Management and Education department at  the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University. “Since I’m such an architectural nut, I felt it was the perfect learning environment for me to gain professional experience in the art world and be surrounded by a gorgeous building,” Wolf gushed. To Wolf, the environment was all about learning and teaching. She was responsible for devising tours around specific themes and interacting with artifacts in a manner that engaged visitors. She was also able to work one-on-one with curators, something considered a dream for most interns.

Wolf walked away with an important lesson from which we can all benefit: “The most valuable thing I have learned while interning this summer is that there are an abundance of resources surrounding us. I think it is easy to live inside the Wheaton bubble of not exploring the surrounding cities,” she explains.

Located between Providence and Boston, Wheaton students have an abundance of resources at hand. If you are interested in Emily’s work at RISD, you can visit the museum, located only about thirty minutes away. If art is not your field,  there are plenty of internship and cultural opportunities available to students. You just need to seek them out!