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September 10th, 2014

Intern Reflections: Sharifa Lookman

Sharifa is a student at Wesleyan University. She worked at SITE in the Education and Outreach Department as an intern during the Summer of 2014. Here are her final reflections on her experience upon completing SITE’s internship program.

When I was growing up art was a very playful experience, one that demanded glue, markers, and unbounded creativity. As I grew older I attempted to refine this craft through formal teachings while exploring studio art’s diverse media. Upon entering university I abandoned studio art related aspirations in favor of art history. Through my summer internship at SITE Santa Fe the creativity of contemporary art making that influenced my childhood and adolescence coalesced with my newfound academic passion for historical art. Here I was given the unique opportunity to further explore and substantiate these diverse interests in fine art while exploring the infrastructure of an international art museum.

My primary objective in completing this internship was to understand the inner workings of an art museum to better realize possible career avenues. I sought exposure to the functions of the museum’s different departments and how their collaborative relationship managed the museum. I hoped that this multidisciplinary exposure would push me to discover new interests and clarify existing ones.

I was so lucky to be at SITE this summer because it was a very pivotal point in the museum’s history in welcoming the biennial exhibition, SITELines: Unsettled Landscapes. My roles in helping prepare the exhibition ranged from compiling materials and research for SITE Guides to developing programming ideas and assisting in promotion of the event through social media. These roles offered great opportunities to explore the breadth of museum tasks and the details necessary in developing an international exhibition. Being part of the opening exhibitions was such a great experience, one that introduced me to the formal side of museum work and the importance of external relationships within the art world on both a national and international level. These events also evidenced the importance of successful communication and commingling between different museum departments.

Working as a SITE Guide was an additional responsibility as an intern that I greatly valued. This position gave me access to study sessions with the artists, training on Visual Thinking Strategies, and the curators’ overview of the birth of SITE’s biennial. Interacting with visitors about the artwork during opening festivities and regular visitation hours was beyond valuable. Speaking to visitors about the artwork using the information accrued from study sessions allowed me to exercise a vocabulary similar to that of my academic studies while still being open to creative interpretations. I believe that the skills I cultivated from my work as a SITE Guide will translate well to future museum positions as well as strengthen my art communication skills.

An additional and unexpected joy of my internship was visiting the Youth Development Program weekly with a fellow intern and SITE Guide. This was a unique and rewarding experience where we worked with participants of the Santa Fe Youth Development Program by facilitating art projects for the children. I appreciated the creativity and freedom in outlining projects related to the exhibition. Though at times challenging, this was an incredibly rewarding experience that provided a broadened outlook on museum outreach and supported its importance.

My summer at SITE was an incredible experience that went beyond mere interning. Both in and out of the museum I had inspiring and reflective conversations with colleagues and visitors that provided an additive layer to my studies and an emboldened outlook on my academic and career trajectory. I am inspired to continue my studies in art history and am eager to unearth new opportunities. Not only did my internship at SITE reaffirm my interest in art, art history, and the pursuit of a museum career, it instilled within me a confidence in my abilities and myself – invaluable assets that will no doubt inspire future endeavors.