The Artful Intern

Summer internships provide opportunities for students to learn new skills, explore career paths, and even enhance their résumés. Thanks to a combination of generosity on the part of Jane Hurley Wilson ’64 and her husband, Michael, and inspiration from Mary Davis MacNaughton ’70, the Wilson Internship at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery offers so much more.

Some students, like Lis Dubois ’03, an art history major, call it a life-changing experience. “The Wilson Internship gave me a clarity of direction,” she says. “From what I learned this last summer, I plan on pursuing a master’s degree in art administration or museum studies. It encouraged me to go into museum work.”

For 10 weeks each summer, the Wilson Internship introduces Scripps students and others from The Claremont Colleges to nonprofit management with a special focus on the visual arts.

“Our art collection is a resource for teaching in the arts and humanities,” says MacNaughton, director of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery and Scripps professor of art history. “Because the school year is driven by exhibition deadlines, we devote our summers to working on our permanent collection. We place an emphasis on organizing and cataloging our collection with the aid of interns.”

From early June through mid-August, Lis assisted MacNaughton, wrote press releases for the gallery’s fall shows, edited the catalog for a retrospective show on Aldo Casanova, emeritus professor of sculpture, as well as worked on other gallery publications. For her efforts, the internship provided a $3,000 stipend.

“One of the main projects I worked on was to curate a small exhibition of photographs of modern dancer Ruth St. Denis from Scripps’ permanent collection,” she says. “I selected the photographs to be shown and wrote the wall text. The exhibition was presented in conjunction with a visiting collection of dance photographs owned by Carol Halsted. It was great to learn about the organization and planning that go into putting on an exhibition.”

MacNaughton notes that an important goal for the Wilson Internship (as well as for the gallery’s other three Getty Multicultural Internships) is to introduce the students to different career possibilities on the presenting side of the visual arts.

“We start here at Scripps and talk to others who are involved in working with not-for-profit organizations, such as the vice president of development and the director of public relations,” MacNaughton said. “Whenever possible, we seek out Scripps alumnae because there is a strong Scripps presence in the visual arts.”

For Lis, these once-a-week field trips were one of the highlights of her internship. “Mary took us into Los Angeles for a series of interviews with professionals working at the Getty, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), and the Huntington,” Lis recalls. Off-campus events included discussing art writing with Suzanne Ely Muchnic ’62, art writer for the Los Angeles Times; a private tour of the Warhol exhibition by Connie Butler ’84, MOCA assistant curator; lessons in buying art at auction and administering a lending library of contemporary art from Joanne Heyler ’86, art curator at the Eli Broad Family Foundation; and insights into painting, paper, photography, and textile conservation from Victoria Blythe-Hill, director of the LACMA conservation center, and the conservators in the various labs.

“Coming into my senior year, it was very valuable to be introduced to the variety of opportunities available in the art world,” says Lis. “Most people say, ‘Oh, art history. What are you going to do with that?’ Now, I can tell them that I hope to pursue curatorial work or publication design.” As a result of the experience she gained during her Wilson Internship, Lis now interns once a week at LACMA. “The internship opened up many contacts in the field,” she says. “I’m working with LACMA Lab on their upcoming show titled The Future of the Museum. We’re looking at new ways of displaying LACMA’s permanent collection in the Museum’s new building. It’s exciting how one thing leads to another.”