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September 23rd, 2013

Internship Reflections: Kiersta Hsi

Kiersta is a student at Vassar College. She worked at SITE in the Education Department as an intern during the summer of 2013. Here are her final reflections about her experience at SITE upon completing her internship.

Working as an intern at SITE Santa Fe this summer was a wonderful experience.  Despite beginning my internship a bit later than the other interns, the SITE staff was very welcoming and helpful getting me started on various projects. Through this experience, I not only learned about the different positions within a contemporary art space but met new friends and mentors along the way.

As an intern at SITE, I was able to work on many interesting projects, but there were a few highlights that toppled my expectations for this summer. I was extremely fortunate to come to SITE as the exhibit Enrique Martinez Celaya: The Pearl was being installed. Witnessing how a museum, artist, and staff constructs an exhibit, especially an exhibit as detail-oriented and complex as The Pearl, gave me a great level of new insight into the process of moving one’s artwork and conceptual dreams into the space allotted and the necessity of cooperation between an artist and the museum. In addition to the excitement of watching the exhibit take its final form, being trained as a SITE guide for this show, in part by the artist himself, was an incredibly special moment for me.

This point brings me to the fantastic opportunity I was given to work as a SITE guide for Celaya’s show. In the beginning, I was nervous that I wouldn’t know when exactly to intervene when someone was about to tinker with the installation or how to eloquently answer a question a guest might have about the work. However, that nervousness quickly dissipated as I was overcome with the excitement of gaining first-hand exposure to how viewers interact with a museum and the artwork. There were also the amazing times when a viewer would talk with me about the art and, by using the Visual Thinking Strategy in our discussion, they would leave extremely grateful for a better understanding and a deeper personal connection to the show.

To top it off, after years of studying and working with the prison system in the United States, SITE invited me to help teach their art class in the Youth Development Program in Santa Fe. Before working in these classes, I had never been inside a youth detention center. I gained a whole new perspective of the conditions, the students, and the staff within the detention center as well as the importance of volunteer classes like the one SITE has set up. Not only does this type of class provide these students with the opportunity to explore subject matter and art in a way they probably haven’t done before, but it also served as a place where they could socialize in a positive manner with teachers who would give them support and individualized instruction.

In addition to these irreplaceable experiences within my internship, I was also able to do a lot of other interesting work. Together, the education interns catalogued and re-shelved over 800 books into the SITE library. Using our new cataloguing skills, we also created a comprehensive list of all of the periodicals SITE currently owns and wants to donate to schools and libraries, some of them dating back to the 1980s. In the moments when our eyes grew tired of inserting ISBNs into the computer, we prepared materials for the diorama and hot air balloon projects for the Youth Development Program. It was the perfect mix of seeing the extraordinary collection of books within the SITE library and getting our hands dirty as we made papier-mâché balloons.

Finally, SITE gave me the fantastic opportunity of working during the opening of Celaya’s show as well as working during the gala/auction. During both events I was able to meet and help several important board members and museum members, as well as gain a better grasp of the importance of social gatherings in the financial component of running this type of museum.

The environment of the auction really taught me a lot about the people who buy art and support contemporary art spaces in general. As an artist, understanding the space that holds art, the people who choose which art to show, and the potential buyers and financiers for an artist is undeniably beneficial. I always tried to work my best while at SITE, but the fact that SITE equipped me with so much insight about the side of the art world who shows, picks, and buys the art is a truly remarkable gift that I couldn’t appreciate more. Thanks for the fantastic summer and I hope we stay in touch in the future.