A View into the Nation’s Arts Ecosystem
September 06, 2019
September 06, 2019
These past three years at Southwestern, I have had so many wonderful experiences that have shaped my idea of the future so immensely. As a business major, Spanish minor, and soon-to-be December graduate, I have fit so much into my time here. From being a leader for the Up to Us Competition and studying abroad in Argentina to now interning with the National Endowment for the Arts this summer, I have had so many incredible high-impact experiences throughout my time, all made possible largely by Southwestern.
Looking for an internship for this summer, I knew for certain that I wanted to work in the arts. Since the age of three, I have been a musician and have always had a passion but never the push to be an artist by career. As a business major, I have been mindful about exploring work and career paths that join the two. In my time at SU, being able to take such a large variety of classes, I have come to realize two important things: there is art in business, and there is business in art. Knowing this, I felt liberated in the major and began to understand its potential.
In looking for internships, I first began by reaching out to two of my most valuable contacts: my mentor from my past internship at SAY Sí, a youth arts education program, and the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) at Southwestern. My SAY Sí mentor asked me to list off the cities where I would be interested in working and provided me an extensive list of organizations at which he had personal connections. The CCPD directed me toward the resources to find alumni who also worked in the field, providing yet another layer of contacts. Through this process, I also learned that the CCPD provided funding for internship experiences that would prove to be extremely important down the line because I was mainly looking at out-of-state organizations and positions that were unpaid.
From there, I got to work on applying. The search began in January, and by mid-April, I had applied to seven different organizations in DC. It was nerve-wracking hearing back at different times from each, but with the National Endowment for the Arts specifically, it wasn’t until they were aware of the tremendous financial support my school offered that I was extended an interview. At the end of the call, I was notified that I got the position.
I was so overjoyed to be offered the opportunity. I felt like it was the perfect next step for me. I ended up working with the Folk & Traditional Arts Department as well as the Presenting & Multidisciplinary Department, which could not have been a better fit for me. The Folk & Traditional Arts Department had the social-justice and social-science aspects that I am always yearning to be involved in and educated about while the Presenting & Multidisciplinary related so much to the multidisciplinary-style education I was receiving at SU. Each of the departments serves to allocate federal funding to their designated artistic area. It was extremely exciting to see the panel process take place, which included hearing from some very highly renowned artists from throughout the country. This was only one part of my internship, but it was definitely one of the most engaging.
While there, I also worked on some large-scale projects. This included drafting and sending out the monthly newsletter, creating summary documents outlining past events that could be shared with the public, and compiling data about the whereabouts of past awardees. I was also able to attend some events related to the arts field around the city. One of my favorites was an event at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage where I learned about the importance of careers in folk and traditional art protection and preservation around the globe. Of course I had some mundane tasks throughout as well, but at this placement, I could always see how my work played into the bigger picture, and—might I add—the bigger picture was truly awe-inspiring to me. Supporting the upliftment of artists and artistic movements not only in DC but throughout the nation was something that I couldn’t believe I was a part of.
At my internship, the people I met were equally as important as the work I was doing. One aspect that was especially admirable was their collective level of education. I understand that this heightened level of education is somewhat standard for DC, but beyond that, I was able to understand each one of their career paths in detail, which in turn immensely helped me figure out what I want to do next. As I talked one-on-one with the people who shared my path thus far, my vision for grad school became clearer. I learned about the rich opportunity in the world of arts administration as a degree and what that would look like. This was so important, because before this summer, I was not considering grad school at all, as I had simply not found anything I was passionate enough about to study for another two years. After this summer, I have.
After all is said and done, this summer significantly helped me define a significantly more detailed plan for my future and explore the options that lie ahead. I think the city of DC and the placement at the National Endowment of the Arts truly helped me expand my thinking and reach new heights in my career path. To think that Southwestern supported me so profoundly makes me very proud to be an SU student.