Denison Internship Program: Featured Summer Intern

Sarah Wilson

Year:  Class of 2020
Majors:  English (Creative Writing) & Theatre
Internship Provider:  Columbus Museum of Art
Title:  Learning Department Intern Coordinator
Location:  Columbus, OH

What are you doing for your internship? What are some of your responsibilities?

As an intern coordinator with the learning department at CMA, I [am] providing teaching and administrative support for a variety of educational programs. Currently, my main responsibility is assistant teaching Summer Art Workshops, which are week-long camps for preschool-high school students focused on making art based around big ideas, rather than specific art “skills.” I am based in the same classroom for the entirety of camp, where I handle check-in and check-out, snacks, supporting and leading educational activities, leading tours around the museum, and integrating a rotating group of part-time interns into the classroom. As most of the teachers are hired for just a single camp, I am the main point-person in the workshop for the learning department staff and especially for other interns, whose day-to-day duties are generally organized by me. Outside of the summer art workshops, I support learning department initiatives by assisting with open studio time, leading materials explorations for visiting students, and embarking on “museum on the moves,” which are ideas-based art programs at Columbus area libraries that aim to provide kids with a basis for creative storytelling and recycled materials to create art based on their stories. My favorite part of the internship is leading gallery activities with campers or visiting students, called artful adventures tours. Fine art is culturally considered highbrow and inaccessible, especially for our campers who are mainly intercity low-income students, so it is incredibly rewarding to lead programs that introduce them to art in engaging, accessible ways.

What do you like most about your internship so far? What has been your favorite part of the experience?

The most enjoyable part about my internship is learning different ways to think about and engage with art. I have always been taught there is a right way to experience fine art: looking quietly, trying to find the “meaning,” feeling vaguely inferior. But experiencing art with kids is completely different, especially with CMA’s emphasis on big ideas and creative thinking. They feel art with all of their senses and have strong ideas for how to interpret it: this painting is of a robot, or that statue is a mermaid. The blue of that sculpture is the smell of cotton candy. Being able to facilitate the experiences of students, preschool through high school aged, has taught me how to experience art without boundaries or feelings of inferiority, which has opened my mind as an artist myself. Additionally, the more I get to see the museum through my student’s eyes, the better I am able to create activities, tours, and projects that will support their creativity and instill ownership over art.

Which skills have you learned or strengthened during your internship that you think will help when applying for jobs/graduate schools?

Workplace multitasking is a skill I have learned that I feel will help me when applying for jobs in the future. On a typical day in my internship, I juggle administrative duties such as communicating with parents and keeping track of workshop schedules, preparing and leading hands-on classroom activities, and managing the part-time intern core. I end my day in rehearsal at a professional theatre company after a full work day at the museum. These experiences have taught me how to be flexible, organized across a variety of tasks from preparing snacks to filing emergency forms, and how to collaborate in a team in which I am both supervised by a teacher and supervising other interns. In the future, I feel that these skills will be applicable to any team-based job that covers multiple duties. I also feel more prepared for a job with the potential to grow into a higher position, as now I have experience both working under a manager and managing other people.

How has your time and experience at Denison prepared you for this internship? How have you used your liberal arts education during your internship?

Denison’s liberal arts education has helped me in a variety of ways in my internship. I have applied the critical thinking and close reading skills from my English major to creating gallery tours and classroom activities centered around engaging deeply with pieces of art. I have utilized the collaboration skills from my Theatre major to work effectively in a teaching team that consists of a new teaching artist every week, interns that come and go in shifts, and the multitude of permanent museum staff that I interact with in different capacities every day. I have used the basic art history and history of education knowledge from my general education classes in order to provide a background to the curriculum I am supporting. Outside of these specific, skills-based experiences, I have also found my liberal arts education useful because it taught me how to deal with a breadth of different information; I feel comfortable toggling between administrative, creative, and management tasks on the flip of a dime and keeping multiple balls in the air every day, which I credit to a Denison experience that is full of a multitude of different classes, student jobs, and activities every day.