Cassandra Chu's summer intern experience
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
I spent the summer of 2017 interning at the Burchfield Penney Art Center under the supervision of Heather Gring. As a graphic design student at Buffalo State, I’ve always been curious about what goes on behind the scenes in the art world, and the museum was in a great location. I initially felt a little out of place among art history and museum studies majors, but after working on a variety of projects and learning more about local art history, I realized how relevant this internship was to my own experience.
I began the summer by reading about Charles Burchfield and discovering how much information the museum had on him. My next task was to transcribe oral interviews with local artists for the Living Legacy Project. I appreciated the flexibility since I could work on them remotely or whenever I had extra time at the museum, and I learned a lot about the backgrounds of these artists—many of whom attended the same university as me—and the evolution and inspiration behind their work. Their advice to aspiring artists gave me a lot of insight into what really goes on in the art world, and even how I can prepare myself better for life beyond university.
However, the main project I worked on this summer was archival processing. Two other interns deconstructed donated materials for the Sharon Mendola archival collection with me as Heather carefully instructed us on how to preserve and catalogue everything. It was a lengthy but rewarding process; we took notes on the materials and debated if there was any specific order to the papers in her folders. We got to rehouse Sharon’s old letters, sketchbooks and photographs, and created a lengthy finding aid after placing everything into distinct categories and measuring the collection. Heather also trusted me enough to sort out recent materials for the Harvey Breverman archival collection on my own, and I learned a lot about how much work goes into preserving primary documents and artwork. I worked on a few side projects too, like wrapping and transporting artwork and installing pieces for a gala, so I’m now an expert at hanging paintings and making sure the labels are perfectly straight! I also learned the basics of Excel and how to type very quickly.
Overall, I had a great time interning at the Burchfield Penney. There was always a new and interesting project to get started on, and the balance between both working alone and with a group was nice. Everybody at the museum was very friendly, and Heather was an awesome person to work under. I believe I got a lot out of my time at the Burchfield Penney and I now have a greater appreciation for art history and all the work that goes into running a museum.