A New Museum Careers Series
When Eric Ramirez-Weaver took over as the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Art History, one of the first things he did was to look at enhancing internship opportunities for his students. He did not have to look hard for willing partners. He joined forces with Kate Melton in the UVA Career Center. Melton has been instrumental in expanding the Career Center’s footprint in the arts in a number of creative and successful ways, and she and Ramirez-Weaver had worked together to launch a Museum Trek program that brought students to Richmond to meet with museum professionals. While the program was a success, Ramirez-Weaver and Melton wanted to expand the program’s reach. Melton suggested that Amanda Wagstaff, the local administrative assistant for the Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative, would be a perfect third partner to make this happen. “We decided to pool our resources and get plugged in with the fellowship opportunities that Wagstaff had,” Ramirez-Weaver said. “She has played a vital role expanding the internship opportunities for all students at UVA, but particularly, opportunities for groups that have been traditionally underrepresented within either the arts in general or specifically within curatorial positions at museums.” The Mellon Foundation grant provides fellowship opportunities for students from groups that are underrepresented in museum careers, giving them hands-on experience in summer curatorial programs around the country. Ramirez-Weaver, Melton, and Wagstaff also designed a three-program series that would take full advantage of the Fayerweather Hall Lounge to bring as many as 70 students together to explore museum careers.
The events kicked off with an October discussion on Diversity in Museums and the Arts, in which Wagstaff brought together a panel of experts from the UVA community and beyond to lay out the great variety of opportunities that exist in the field. For the second event, Ramirez-Weaver relied on contacts from his own time as a curator and worked with George Sampson, from Arts Administration, to contact alums with experience working at major cultural institutions. They created an evening of panels with professionals from the University and the Charlottesville area, along with Skype sessions featuring UVA graduates & leading figures in the field. Panelists shared their experiences of breaking into the museum world and offered tips on how to succeed at securing summer internships. The lineup included Leslie Bussis Tait from The Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval museum, who was able to offer firsthand advice on what she looks for from internship applicants. Courtney Schaefer (College ‘2011), Asst. Director, Affiliate Programs at MOMA, was another highlight, thanks in part to the fact that she was a recent graduate who is enjoying a meteoric rise through the museum’s ranks. “She really put a human face and a student’s face, on the experience,” Ramirez-Weaver said. The highest-profile participant, he said, was Elizabeth Morrison of the J. Paul Getty Museum, where she is Senior Curator of Manuscripts and one of the leading curators working with medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts today. “She was able to share important perspectives on the challenges confronting women in a male-dominated field, which requires a strength of conviction and a passion for the material, and served as a living example of the importance of believing in yourself.” The final event in the series, held in December, focused on the museum interview and application process, offering coaching on what to expect in interviews. Ramirez-Weaver, Melton and other members of the Career Center team went over student CV’s and provided “fixes” on the spot, just in time for the December deadline for summer internship applications