Brooke Barrera Sheldon worked as an intern in SITE’s Education and Outreach Department during the summer of 2016. Below she reflects on her experience at SITE upon completing her internship.
The significance of contemporary art in our lives and what it represents has taken on many roles. This is because art is universal across all civilizations, cultures, ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic classes. During my internship in the Education department of SITE this summer I learned about many of these roles working with Amanda Lee, Joanne Lefrak, Winoka Begay, Matthew Contos, Caley Dennis, and Brandee Caoba in the opening of the biennial, Much Wider than a Line and through the Youth Development Program. My time spent at SITE this summer has inspired me to find new ways to incorporate contemporary art into my future work.
Upon my return to Santa Fe after my first year of college, I decided to contact SITE after my positive experience as a Young Curator. The Young Curators program does an incredible job of exposing the art world to the youth, but it only scratches the surface of all that is really going on. I wanted to learn more about how SITE interacts with the art world on both the local and global scale The wonderful team in the Education department accepted my application and was key to developing my understanding these dynamics. I was able to participate on both levels through helping with the biennial and other projects SITE is currently involved in.
One of the programs that interested me the most in the Education department is the Youth Development Program. Although I only had one opportunity to participate in this program, I learned about how great an impact it makes. The YDP works with detained teens to create an understanding of what art can mean in one’s life. Matthew Contos, the school programs manager and director of this program has done a great job with promoting and running this program despite the implications involved with this sort of difficult work. Many of the teens that are at the detention facility have not yet had the opportunity to explore all that art does and can offer to one’s life. The projects that are presented at the YDP are a prime example of how the creative process can have several benefits in people’s lives. Many of these teens experience a sense of displacement from the world and can use art as a means of reconnecting with society. Periods of discomfort and change are common themes in their lives, which can be expressed through art giving them a way to cope with their circumstances. The Youth Development Program provides a safe zone for these teens to express their thoughts without restriction. Even though it is sometimes difficult to see the reward of this sort of work, I believe that its effects are truly beneficial to a group of people that are in need. As this is only one of many community-based projects SITE has to offer, I experienced how important art can be to the local community.
Not only does SITE do an incredible job of being involved locally, the organization demonstrated how involved it is with the global community. The biennial is focused around contemporary indigenous art in the Americas. It brought in 35 different artists from 16 different countries. The experience of witnessing the coming together of this event and how many different types of people were placed together helped me see how contemporary art’s importance in today’s world is vital to our understanding of culture. It reflects how our society functions, our ability to relate to others, share our experiences and present realities, tell tales of the flow of people, bring a voice to our communities, and solve the issues we face every day. I learned the most about this through a personal experience with Paulo Nazareth, one of the artists featured in the exhibition. Nazareth explained to me his mission in wandering the world and why he wishes to gather the stories of indigenous people who have previously been unheard. His practice influenced my understanding of how the arts make an impact on people in a number of different ways. After having this experience, I hope to one day find a way to incorporate art into philanthropic work.
Altogether my experience interning at SITE taught me much more than I could have ever imagined. I learned necessary skills for my future such as figuring out how to use a photocopier, writing loan agreements, learning team dynamics with other artists and employees, cultivating a happy work environment, meeting people and artists from different cultures, and learning what art means and does in a broader sense. I am so fortunate to have had this experience, despite the complications that came up this summer that prevented me from being able to be fully engaged with my work at SITE. SITE’s work has several capacities that run congruently with the goals of the ‘millennial’ generation. SITE does this by teaching people through arts education to recognize their place in the world, work with others, broaden their perspective, tolerate all individuals, and instills morals that are necessary for our community to continue to grow. The arts have an influential role on the development of our society and our community. I hope that in the future I will be able to work more with SITE to continue the remarkable work it is already doing.