Name: Anna Talarico
Type of Project: Internship
My STEP Fellowship supported me during my summer as the Curatorial Intern at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC. I worked primarily with 1) the museum’s Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art, and 2) the museum’s Associate Curator of Contemporary Art. My responsibilities including writing acquisition proposals for works of art, researching information to accompany wall panels for exhibits, attending board and department meetings, and developing ideas for future exhibits in the museum’s photography gallery.
From this experience, I gained a significant understanding of what expectations I have for my career and what steps I need to take to get where I would like to be. Being in an arts field, I assumed that my passion and talent for my career was more desired by employers than my academic achievements. II am now beginning to see that this pursuing a career in this field requires extensive foresight and planning. Ever since deciding to major in art history, I knew that I needed to seek advanced degrees after graduation, and prior to committing to this pursuit, I made sure that I understood what is expected of me in order to receive further education. This summer, I was able to digest the ideas of conducting undergraduate research, researching professors and institutions that I hope to learn from as a graduate student, and building professional relationships. I took the GRE at the end of this summer knowing that it is required for graduate school applications, and I am grateful that I anticipated, prepared for, and completed the GRE this summer. I hope to have a career in art history in academia or in a museum, and while I understand the commitment and rigor that it requires, this summer confirmed my passion for this field of study. I strongly desire to keep learning and advancing within this field.
Another change that I experienced this summer was, as my mom would say, “being a big girl.” Being a professional and being a student are two very different ways of life, and they require different depths of self-care. As a student, my schedule and lifestyle are self-designed and flexible. As a professional, my schedule is created by my supervisor and my lifestyle must fit within the confines of my job. I am expected to dress and behave a certain way while at work, and while I have my own personal standards in my life as a student, interacting with adults/colleagues requires more maturity and respect than interacting with friends or peers. My internship provided me with an important dose of reality and what is expected of me as a professional. I won’t be a student forever, so it is imperative that I experience professional settings as early as possible. Commuting to work everyday was a major adjustment for me. Living on a college campus includes the benefit of being able to walk everywhere. During the summer, I had to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate traffic, getting ready in the morning. This challenged me to figure out how to take care of my needs and still balance work. I found new ways to stay in touch with friends, exercise, relax, and enjoy my free time while still being mindful of my responsibilities.
One of the most important aspects of this summer was being able to network with professionals in the field I hope to enter following graduation. I was able to talk about my future in art history with my supervisors, and they provided me with information that I found to be extremely useful in deciding what I will do upon graduation. I had always thought that I would need a Ph.D in order to work as a curator in museum, but I learned this summer that to work in a museum with modern and contemporary art (my area of focus at Ohio State) I only need to pursue a Master’s degree. I felt very comforted by this information because the idea of entering a five or six year Ph.D. program after graduating seemed daunting. Knowing that I have a plan for the next four years of my life is extremely manageable. This conversation helped me realize the importance of taking my career one step at a time, and for me, the next step is to pursue my Master’s degree. I feel confident that I can achieve this step and attend a well-regarded program knowing that my supervisors this summer have already committed themselves to maintaining a relationship with me and providing me with letters of recommendation for whatever I may need.
Another key aspect of my internship this summer was having the opportunity to design my own photography exhibits for the museum. Drawing from the 400+ works in the museum’s permanent photography collection, I curated five unique photography exhibits for the museum to use over the next few years. This was the most hands-on project I was assigned this summer, and it gave me very deep insight to what a curator does. For each of the exhibits, I wrote an exhibit description–a brief summary of artists featured in the show, what the show represents, etc.–and an exhibit justification, which explains why the museum should install the show. Additionally, I had to create an exhibition checklist for each of the five shows. In order to do this, I had to learn how to use The Museum System (TMS), which is a database system that museums use to catalogue their permanent collections. This software is used around the country and the world, and I knowing how to operate the database makes me a more competitive candidate in the job market. Ultimately, I loved this project because I was trusted with the creative freedom and responsibility to develop exhibits.
Finally, I learned about how curators must work in collaboration with other areas of the museum. The museum’s intern coordinator arranged for NCMA’s interns to attend sessions over the summer with various individuals in the museum. I attended a session with the museum’s Chief Registrar, whose responsibilities include cataloguing the permanent collection, managing new acquisitions, monitoring display time of art (artwork cannot be exposed to light and oxygen for long periods of time), lending and borrowing work from other institutions, and storing art. Curators must be in constant communication with Chief Registrars because they control the movement of the art in the museum, and curators cannot do their jobs without mobilizing art. I also attended a session with the museum’s Development Officer, whose responsibilities include fundraising, membership, and managing endowments. Development Officers and curators must be mutually supportive of each other in order to receive funding for the museum and engage with the community. Without the help of the government or the public, museums cannot survive, and because of this, I have become much more engaged with the activities in and individuals involved with my local government. Attending these sessions allowed me to see how curators must be knowledgeable of the various roles in a museum. Curators must be able to work as a team with many other people in order to develop exhibits and achieve success in a museum.
These three experiences were extremely valuable in helping me grow personally and professionally. I truly feel like I have been able to advance in my career path and receiving the STEP fellowship made this progress possible.
As I previously stated, this experience has helped me grow in my field of studies, and it has helped me mature. One of the greatest lesson that I have learned is the importance of developing relationships with professionals in my field and learning from their experiences. Professors are important people to consult for references and academic growth, but internships–and the people who make them possible–are valuable experiences for entering the job market. After my experiences this summer, I feel like I could be interviewed for a job tomorrow and be able to describe my experience and explain my goals extremely well. Before my internship, I knew where I wanted to be in a few years, but I didn’t know exactly how to get there. My experience this summer gave me a clear understanding of what I need to accomplish and what I should expect of myself in order to have the career that I am working toward. This summer provided me with a strong dose of reality that will help guide my decision making over the next two years at Ohio State.