Art History Student Wins Coveted Internship at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
October 25, 2018
Moody Fellow Sabrina Silva spent her four years at Southwestern researching, discussing, and writing about art history from a variety of perspectives. In the summer of 2018, Silva translated those skills to her work as a curatorial intern for the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), the research institute of the Latin American Art Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). Funded by a Moody Foundation Grant, Silva’s internship was created exclusively for a Southwestern student pursuing fine arts–related opportunities within a major metropolitan city. She was selected by the MFAH through a competitive application process.
Amid the substantial collection of archives, catalogs, and exhibitions that she and her colleagues gathered and helped translate into Spanish, Portuguese, and English, Silva composed synopses about Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt, 1912–1994), a leading Venezuelan sculptor renowned for works inspired by geometric abstraction that reflected the artist’s academic background in engineering and architecture. Silva’s research and annotations were her contribution to an upcoming book manuscript as well as an online database used by professors and students of Latin American studies.
An art history major and feminist studies minor, Silva first heard about the 10-week opportunity from Associate Professor of Art History Patrick Hajovsky, and she consulted with Career Services Internship Coordinator Dana Luna as she prepared her materials for the Moody Foundation Grant competition. Silva attributes her winning application to her research and writing skills, for which she credits her undergraduate education: “I 100% couldn’t have done this without Southwestern. The focus on writing here makes me grateful for all those long papers, the capstone project, and the emphasis put on writing at SU.”
“I 100% couldn’t have done this without Southwestern. The focus on writing here makes me grateful for all those long papers, the capstone project, and the emphasis put on writing at SU.”
The combination of Southwestern’s small class sizes with its breakthrough Paideia® curriculum also had a positive impact on Silva’s work this past summer. Through her interdisciplinary courses, Silva learned not just about art history but also the financial aspects of purchasing art, the legal ramifications of borrowing works from other institutions, and the principles of museum administration. Collaborating with her fellow students and being mentored by professors at the Sarofim School of Fine Arts created a close-knit community that could not be duplicated at a larger campus, says Silva.
The MFAH internship provides specialized training and professional development for undergraduate and graduate students who will become museum professionals and active community partners in the arts. Silva expanded her practical education and made connections through the museum’s brown-bag lunches and meetings with cinema curatorial staff and museum educators. But the internship also afforded opportunities to explore farther afield, such as the Rienzi house museum, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and the Asia Society Texas Center.
As a result of the internship and field trips, Silva has focused her sights on a career in curation, perhaps specializing in the decorative arts. “I feel like I’ve always had a love of history and specifically art history, but in undergrad, I was always asking the question of why: Why does the curator set up the room this way? Why have this conversation piece within other pieces in the collection?” Her previous perception of the boundaries dividing art and art history have also begun to fall away: “People would ask me, ‘You’re majoring in art history, so do you make art?’ And I would say, ‘No, I’m interested in history and appreciating art.’” But during her internship, Silva learned that “curating is creating conversation, so I am a sort of artist, and curating is a type of art because you’re crafting what and how people are seeing. You have to have the eye [for design] if you’re a curator.”
Since her stint at the MFAH, Silva has returned to the Round Rock area to find a job in the arts. She hopes to attend a master’s program in curatorial studies starting in fall 2020. But in the meantime, she’ll enjoy having been part of a collection that is ever changing, with new pieces being added every day and novel revelations being made about long-archived works. As Silva can now attest, when it comes to working in the fine arts, “You never stop learning… . There’s always something new to discover.”
Sabrina’s experience was made possible by a generous grant from the Moody Foundation.