A School of Art summer class with the generic title of “ART 496 – Art Internship” has developed into an unparalleled learning experience for undergraduate students. Taught by Judi Clark, Director of Academic Advising and Student Services, and Kris Anderson, Director of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, the class partnered this summer with MadArt. Alison Milliman (BA 1984) leads that organization; she is a member of the School of Art’s Advisory Board and recently completed a term on the UW Foundation Board.
First offered in 2007 and taught solely by Clark, ART 496 has evolved over the years. Anderson, a PhD student in the Art History Program, came on board as co-instructor in 2008 after being hired as Director of the School’s gallery. The general goal of the class has always been to give students firsthand experience with the community and business of art in the Puget Sound area. Since the beginning, local arts professionals have been brought in to talk to the students about their work, and there have been field trips to galleries, museums, nonprofit organizations, and private collections. The students also organized a juried show of work created by students in School of Art summer classes and a separate sale of student art.
One shift that happened in 2010 created an opportunity for the student interns to develop a show working with artists from outside the School. That year, the class partnered with SOIL, a collective of artists that has a gallery in Pioneer Square. Timea Tihanyi, Lecturer for the School’s Interdisciplinary Visual Arts Program, is a member of SOIL, and she acted as liaison for this project. The resulting show in the Jacob Lawrence Gallery was titled Now and Then, and it gave students firsthand experience interacting with working artists to develop an exhibition.
For the 2011 class, Kris Anderson proposed the idea of working with MadArt. Milliman was thrilled to have Mad Homes artists participate; MadArt had commissioned thirteen artists to use five North Capitol Hill houses slated for salvage and demolition as their creative canvas. Class field trips included visits to the Mad Homes location as the artists developed their site-specific installations, and students were given the option to become docents/guides for Mad Homes. Milliman said the students were wonderful ambassadors for both Mad Homes and the School. She recruited artists from among the Mad Homes participants to work with the students for the show at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, seeing it as a great opportunity for the artists to create works for a gallery space that related to their much larger scale Mad Homes installations. Milliman appreciated that Clark and Anderson were organized but also flexible about schedules when needed. Anderson assigned students to work with specific artists, trying to match media/style interests while also mixing the students so they would work with someone other than their closest classmates (most of the students were Art or Art History majors, but some hailed from Comparative History of Ideas, English, Comparative Literature, History, Psychology, and Business). The dialogue between interns and artists proved to be a learning experience for both. Students worked with the artists to install their work, created labels, helped write the press release, and more. The resulting exhibition, titled Mad Home Away From Home, showed work by six of the Mad Homes artists. Milliman was also the juror for the interns’ concluding show of the quarter, titled Critical Eye, which featured artwork by students in School of Art classes.
A few of the interns provided feedback for this article about their experience in ART 496. Bryan Imanishi is a student in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts. He talked about seeing the interrelationships between art jobs that are rarely seen by the general public. He said, “It feels almost like a student is getting introduced to a secret society. In the future, if I search for a place in the arts, because of this class I’d feel comfortable with the search because of the many avenues for job placement we explored in this class…This is a very special class.” Akiko Masker is a Painting + Drawing student, and she has been chosen for a Henry Art Gallery internship during the 2011-2012 academic year. She said, “I had a wonderful experience in assisting artists, preparing and helping to organize exhibits, providing information to guests and as a docent at the Mad Homes project and the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. I was also grateful for the opportunity to meet working professionals in art and to hear how they interact with the Seattle arts community and the general public…I was very happy with this class because it gave me the chance to learn the daily responsibilities of the docent and the curator.” Levi Higgs is a student in the Art History Program. He said, “I was excited to be working one on one with artists during their process of setting up an exhibition at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery. I knew a fair amount about different aspects of the art world, but through the book we read, Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton, we thoroughly discussed many different avenues one can take. I loved learning how interconnected all the galleries, professors, museum educators, appraisers, and arts organization leaders are in the city. If there was one major takeaway from this class, it is the importance of networking and the necessity to dive head first into an arts career by putting yourself out there. People notice other people with drive and passion.”
Partnering with people and organizations in the arts community is beneficial for everyone. Students meet artists and professionals who are potential contacts for jobs in the future. The community members learn more about the School, or, in the case of alumni, they are able to interact with the School in a completely different way from when they were students. Among the people who have met with students over the years are (apologies to anyone inadvertently not listed): Betsey Brock, Associate Director for Communications and Outreach at the Henry Art Gallery; Barbara Brotherton (PhD 1994), Curator of Native American Art at the Seattle Art Museum; Eric Elliott (MFA 2007), artist; Robin Held (MA 1998), Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Collections at Frye Art Museum; Billy Howard (MFA 1994), founder and owner of Howard House; Greg Kucera (BFA 1980), founder and owner of Greg Kucera Gallery; Scott Lawrimore, founder and owner of Lawrimore Project; Esther Luttikhuizen (MFA 1993), Collection Curator at 4Culture; Jessica Powers, Co-Curator of Hedreen Gallery at Seattle University; Marisa Sanchez, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Seattle Art Museum; Nancy Stoaks (BA 2002, MA 2009), Art Program Manager at Swedish Medical Center; and Robert Yoder (MFA 1987), artist. Nicole Appell (BA 1998) and other staff of the UW Summer Youth Programs have also been involved with ART 496 since the interns typically mount at least one show of work created by students in those programs.
A verbal agreement has already been made with Seattle Print Arts to partner with ART 496 during Summer Quarter 2012. Stay tuned to School of Art news via one of our news channels (News Feed, Facebook, or Twitter) to learn more about that in the future.