Why did you want to train with your host employer?
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s (SFMOMA) mission directly reflects my objective to promote discoverability of under-represented artists, and broaden access to their work for the communities within which it is situated. I had always wanted to see San Francisco, and meet other people who share a love of art, and so SFMOMA felt like a very natural place to begin.
What were the professional goals you wanted to achieve?
I set out three goals at the beginning of my program – to gain hands-on experience in curatorial practice; to build professional confidence, as well as a network of contacts in areas I may be interested in working in the future; and, most importantly, to develop my understanding of issues relating to inclusivity and accessibility in art museums and contribute my own perspectives and best practice in this area.
Describe your training program.
Working in curatorial affairs with the Collections Information and Access team, I was charged with various projects which would support the development of and promote access to, the online collection. Alongside my project work, SFMOMA provided a structured professional development program for all interns and trainees, which brought us together once a week for career coaching workshops, “Lunch + Learns” with key museum staff and field trips to other museums and galleries in the Bay Area. We also benefited from being paired up with a mentor who we met with regularly for coffee, career advice and a general catch up on how the program was going.
Describe two or three successes you’ve achieved during your program so far.
Perhaps the most notable achievement on my program actually came about outside of my day-to-day project work. A new exhibition featured challenging artwork relating to domestic violence and abuse. As a guidance counsellor for an art school alongside my studies, I have worked with a number of young people who have been affected by this issue and had concerns about how distressing some visitors might find this exhibition space. I fed back my concerns to the exhibition lead, along with a suggestion to include contact numbers for local and national support services based on research I undertook in the local community. This was forwarded to the artist who approved of the idea and signage has since been implemented accordingly. Hopefully this might go some way to helping anyone triggered by this difficult material, and I was pleased that my experience and training facilitated this positive change.
In addition to the professional experience, what have you enjoyed most about working with your employer?
Thanks to this program, I met some of the most vibrant, interesting and insightful people I have ever had the pleasure to spend time with. There was a culture of openness at SFMOMA, and in San Francisco generally, which made for such a comfortable experience. The art was, of course, a major bonus too – I can’t pretend I didn’t spend every tea-break roaming the galleries with fellow interns.
What do you want to do next and how do you think this experience will impact your future career?
This experience has helped me to refine my career goals, as well as affording a network of contacts in the areas I’m interested in working in the near future. I plan to complete graduate school before applying for opportunities for further study, fellowships and/or jobs which will move me closer towards my dream of curating contemporary art. I’ve also gained a taste for working internationally, so I’m open to going wherever the work will take me, and that’s a very exciting prospect.
What is your favorite aspect of American culture and what do you plan on bringing home with you?
Multi-culturalism. The opportunity to connect with people of diverse cultural, ethnic, religious and socio-economic background enriches lives and I’m bringing home the friendships I’ve made, the conversations I’ve had, the things I’ve learnt, the food I’ve enjoyed and a commitment to continue to celebrate, promote and protect diversity in all its forms.
Also, happy hour.