Friday, 26 May 2017




Hi everyone! Welcome to the first internship check-in post of 2017. Since my internship at the Art Gallery of Ontario is coming to a close, I am very excited to be able to learn about other students' experiences through this column. I'd like to feature as many students as possible this summer to share the wide range of internship roles and institutions. Let's get started!

Today's post features:

Aurora Cacioppo: Art Gallery of Hamilton - Hamilton, ON
Kelly Manikoth: Open Studio - Toronto, ON
Christopher Shackleton: Elgin County Museum - St. Thomas, ON
Leore Zecharia: Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre - North York, ON

Describe what a typical day is like for you at your institution. What are some of your main duties and responsibilities?

I usually come into work and get settled in at my desk in the library by making myself some tea and booting up my laptop. Right now we are prepping for an upcoming exhibition featuring a new acquisition to AGH’s permanent collection. It includes soapstone carvings made by Inuit patients that were being treated for tuberculosis at Hamilton Mountain Sanatorium. My responsibilities for the first half of my internship will consist of researching the history of tuberculosis in Canada, sanatoria in Hamilton, and Inuit patients that were admitted there. I will also be using this research to help with the didactics and programming for the exhibition. This allows me to practice my research skills and learn about my hometown’s history at the same time. For the second half of my internship, I’ll be researching and preparing a grant proposal. I've attended a few curatorial meetings with Tobi [Bruce, Director of Exhibitions and Collections and Senior Curator at AGH], including an acquisition meeting. Tobi and two other curators presented new artwork to the Acquisitions Committee in hopes for a motion to add it to AGH's collection! It was so exciting. These meetings are giving me insight on how the gallery functions. I am learning about AGH's working environment (which is very supportive and encouraging), I am keeping informed about all of the gallery's programming, and I am able to see how Shelley Falconer, President & CEO of AGH and MMSt alumna, is making sure things run smoothly. So far, so very good!

Kelly: So far, every single day at my internship has been different! I started my placement at a very busy time in the gallery; in the span of three weeks there have been three major events and an opening. As an intern, I helped out any way I could; from assigning inventory/accession to new prints entering the gallery, archiving new prints, priming walls, building shelves, unpacking and installing artworks for exhibitions, presenting and photographing prints for clients, running errands (i.e. rushing to the hardware store when we ran out of screws the day of an opening!), writing and setting up labels, cleaning and prepping the gallery for events, such as setting up food and photographing openings.

Chris: As far as I can tell, there really is no typical day here! We’ve had quite a mixed bag of tasks so far, with one day dedicated to being a filming location for The Nature of Things with Dr. David Suzuki, and another spent delivering a 180kg cube of mud from the wall of a historic house, in exchange for a disassembled carriage! Our museum acts as the centre of a modified heritage network, so we wear many hats as advocates for heritage across the county. I generally assist visitors when they arrive and throughout their time in the museum, and between tours I will work on a variety of projects and assist with inquiries, research, or documentation.

Leore: Right now I am doing a lot of research for school programs during Holocaust Education Week, so my days mainly consist of research. As a small institution, I am also running sessions for New Dimensions in Testimony and filling in where I am needed.

Aurora taking a selfie with Alex Colville's Horse and Train - a special work in AGH's permanent collection!

What is something you have learned in your first few weeks of your internship?

Aurora: I’ve learned that things move extremely fast, and there are always a number of events, exhibitions, and lots of programming on the go. Being able to juggle many things at once is important to master. Being organized and having connections is extremely beneficial because it allows for outsourcing information, delegating tasks, and collecting experience or contributions from other professionals. I’ve learned that a team that works well together is essential for the success of an institution.

Kelly: I learned the importance of being versatile and flexible within your skillset. In a small artist-run centre, one person has multiple roles, for example my supervisor is the Print Sales and Archive Manager, so she has two roles in one. Being well equipped with computer skills, financial knowledge, technical skills such as using power tools all while staying caught up with trends in the contemporary art world will get you very far. I also learned the value of time management and prioritising tasks (something that the first year of grad school has also helped me learn!).

Chris: I’ve learned that sometimes the power of a local history legend completely overshadows the narrative presented by the facts as we know them!

Leore: What I have learned so far is that while there are school groups and the public in and out every day, for us it is more behind the scenes work while volunteer museum educators are guiding the groups.

Kelly at Open Studio's Member's Ink Silent Auction Event with her supervisor Astrid
What is something that has surprised you about museums that you did not know before working in a real one?

Aurora: Sometimes special guests come visit! On May 12, Ethan Hawke came to visit AGH. He is currently filming a movie in Hamilton about Maud Lewis and he wanted a tour of the vaults and to see some of Maud’s work that is featured in AGH’s permanent collection. After his tour, he came up to the office floor and said "Hi"!

Kelly: Something that surprised me is how tight knit the Toronto arts community is. Everyone knows and supports one another by attending events, openings and exchanging art within the network of Canadian artists.

Chris: I was surprised with the number of other institutions that utilise the Elgin County Museum for advice, resources, and expertise.

Leore: What is surprising is that there are so few Holocaust museums and education centres in Canada, and we are essentially the only one in Ontario. There are so many people who don’t even know we exist, but for those who do, we have school groups come from all over Ontario.

Chris with the Elgin County Museum's brand-new Jumbo the Elephant display. 
What are you most looking forward to in your internship? What excites you about your internship?

Aurora: I am most excited about getting to know my community through the art gallery! I grew up in Hamilton, and I am proud to be interning at such an awesome institution that is so close to home! I am also very excited to learn about the role of the curatorial team in the preparation for exhibitions, as well as understanding what day-to-day life is within a mid-sized institution like the AGH. I’ve had experience in a smaller gallery, and it is interesting to see how the dynamic has shifted and the responsibilities have been delegated. I’m also extremely excited to be contributing to the research preparation for an important exhibition for our city's history (Carving Home, opens June 27).

Kelly: The most exciting aspect of being at Open Studio for me is handling prints and then meeting the artists who created the artwork! The studio is located right beside the gallery, so when I admire a work on display or in inventory, I can go next door and meet the artist who created the piece or watch them work on new pieces.

Chris: I’m most looking forward to a special guest we have coming into the museum this week, whose name I can’t reveal! We also have several loans coming in and out, and I’m kind of excited to see what the handover and paperwork process is like! Every day so far has been an adventure, with a number of incredible people and objects crossing my path. I’m always excited when I answer the phone and hear the words “I have some stuff here I think you might want,” because I invariably imagine the rarest and most desirable objects I can.

Leore: What I am most looking forward to is helping with the preparations for Holocaust Education Week in November.

Leore taking a selfie with her lovely official nametag!
What do you hope to accomplish while you are at your internship?

Aurora: I hope to gain an understanding of how a mid-size institution works in terms of back-end preparation, installation of an exhibition, striking the exhibition, programming, and more. I am interested in leadership positions and their impact on institutions like the AGH, and I am hoping to learn from the working dynamics here. I am also hoping to develop my research and communication skills.

Kelly: During my time at Open Studio, I hope that I can get more people interested in contemporary art by local artists. This can be by letting people know of upcoming events and openings, sharing artwork on social media, and creating intriguing exhibitions.

Chris: I hope to build a network of experts in local heritage and tourism marketing who I can consult in the future. For our upcoming Expo 67 and Centennial exhibit, I’ll be sourcing and coordinating loans of souvenirs and photographs from the community, so I’m trying to put together a cohesive collection of pieces to tell an interesting and engaging story about how those two events impacted Elgin County.

Leore: What I hope to accomplish is creating a program from start to finish.

What’s your passion?

Aurora: My passion is storytelling. I love learning about history and people and objects and places through stories. Museums and art galleries present these stories, and that is why I am so thrilled to be pursuing a career in this profession.

Kelly: My passion is to connect communities together through fine art, as well as creating my own artwork.

Chris: My passion is improving the experience of the visitor to the museum, whether they’re a casual tourist or an expert researcher. Using that as my goal focuses my choices when I accession materials, write and research displays, or provide tours, because I try to put myself in the shoes of anyone who may be affected by my work. Thinking about the usefulness and outcomes of my work also serves as an excellent motivator when tasks seem unappealing or daunting.

Leore: My whole life I went to Jewish overnight camp where as I grew up I started to realize more and more the importance of the informal education I got from there, and the power it has when complemented with formal education. If I could stay at camp for the rest of my life, I would, but unfortunately that is not a realistic dream. I have always wanted to work in museums, and during my undergrad, I realized that I would be able combine my love of museums with my passion for the informal education system. As well, I want to continue on the path of Jewish collective memory. So, that would be my passion.

Thank you to Aurora, Kelly, Chris and Leore for your honest responses. Check back in two weeks for Part Two of the internship check-in series!

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