Most college students know that internships are important career steps that help them gain experience and become more competitive job candidates upon graduation. But, beyond that basic knowledge, many students don’t make time for them in their course schedules. This is unfortunate, because internships can be far more than resume-builders. The right internship can give a student not only important real-world professional skills, but the opportunity to build relationships in their field and community. It can also give them a clearer idea of what type of work they enjoy doing and how they can mold that work into a sustainable, satisfying career.
Haley McDevitt understands the benefits of internships to a humanities and fine arts major. Haley, a senior at UMass Amherst, participated in her first internship last semester at Easthampton City Arts (ECA). A Studio Arts major and Campus Certificate in Arts Management student, Haley dreams of running an arts education program where students without financial means can have access to art lessons and materials. Recently, I spoke with Haley and her internship supervisor Pasqualina Azzarello, Arts Coordinator for ECA, about their experience working together. In addition to her work at ECA, Pasqualina is a painter, public muralist, and educator, who graduated from UMass with BA in Studio Art. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she initiated a number of experimental art projects, including painting murals on the temporary walls around construction sites. Her projects were featured in a number of prominent publications, including the New Yorker and the New York Times.
“I was in [AES Program Coordinator] Todd Trebour’s Arts Marketing class,” says Haley. “Pasqualina came in to talk to us about her work at ECA. I thought her talk was really interesting, so I approached her afterwards. After talking with Pasqualina about some connections we had, I ended up landing an internship at ECA for the upcoming fall semester. I helped ECA with planning and marketing for fundraisers and events, as well as two different galleries they curate and manage: the MAP space gallery in Eastworks and the ECA Gallery in Easthampton’s Old Town Hall.
Interning with Pasqualina, Haley gained not only necessary professional skills, but valuable insight into the real world experience of being an artist.
“I definitely recommend internships to arts students. My internship with Pasqualina was one of my favorite things I did last semester - moreover, I was able to receive credit for my internship, so it was considered a part of my course schedule. I learned a lot about what it means to be out in the world and actually be doing arts programming. Also, the opportunity to meet people and network was invaluable. One of my favorite moments was working at the ECA event Grist for the Mill and seeing a giant room full of people listening to famous artists and curators talk. Seeing the success of this program was so exciting - and later, at the after party, I got to hang out with Kambui Olujimi, one of my favorite artists.”
Internships are important opportunities for students, but they are also important opportunities for arts and culture organizations.“It’s something that is part of what we value as a community organization, because we recognize that we cannot do our work alone,” says Pasqualina. “We realize that the more people we have engaged in creating, producing and sharing work at Easthampton City Arts, the stronger our organization is. The world in which we’re living is one that is reliant on relationships and partnerships. Also, I have to say that I am always learning from the people that I work with. I really appreciate working with young people, because there’s a real value in not having been in the job market for 20 years. It’s vital to hear fresh ideas that are not limited by assumptions about ‘the way things work.’”
While Pasqualina's vision for Haley’s internship was clear from the beginning, it also evolved as she got to know Haley better.
“When I went into Todd’s Arts Marketing class,” says Pasqualina, “I noticed Haley drawing and it reminded me of myself drawing before class in college, 20 years before. I told her we were looking for an intern in the fall and would love to work with someone like her, who is both an active artist and interested in facilitating community engagement through art. Haley is someone who is incredibly bright and perceptive. On the first day, I said, ‘really feel free to take initiative. Really feel free to use your voice. Bring who you are, what you care about and what your questions are into your work.’ Haley took that initiative throughout the course of her internship. She was instrumental in a number of initiatives that took place this fall. She not only helped organize various different events, she helped Easthampton City Arts cultivate a partnership with UMass in a new way. Haley helped connect UMass faculty and students to our October Grist for the Mill program, as well as our 8x8 Fundraiser Show which featured some works by current and recent UMass alumni.”
Reflecting on the internship experience and on her own life, Pasqualina recommends that all arts students consider becoming involved in internships. “When I was younger, there weren’t as many opportunities for internships. You didn’t get to be in the real world with the same sort of support and guidance that internships provide. I really recommend that students take advantage of that."
What advice do you have for students interested in arts and culture internships? Pasqualina had this parting advice: “First, students should talk to their advisers and professors and let them know it’s something they’re interested in.” The Arts Extension Service manages a listing of Current Arts and Culture Internship opportunities, as well as biannual Arts and Humanities Internship Fairs where students can easily learn about, meet, and interview internship providers.
“Also, when applying for internships, they should include as much as they can on their resumes - a lot of people don’t realize that seemingly unrelated skills can actually be relevant to their internships,” says Pasqualina. “Providers understand that students are young and are still building their resumes, so won’t have a lot on there yet. Next, it’s really important for people to set up times to meet in person. Working at a place like ECA is really a fabulous opportunity for the right person, but it’s also important to see if an internship opportunity clicks with you.”
“Lastly, students should be open to different opportunities and, when they land an internship, take initiative!” Pasqualina advises. “It will show your internship provider how motivated you are - and remember, you are cultivating a professional relationship with someone you may someday know as a colleague rather than an internship provider."