Behind the Scenes Education

Intern Voice: My Experience as a Milwaukee Art Museum Intern

Students doing an activity in Windhover Hall. Screenshot of the teens' final project video.
Students doing an activity in Windhover Hall. Screenshot of the teens’ final project video.
As the weather slowly became warmer and final assignments had come and gone, the summer of 2013 slyly crept upon me and I still had no idea as to what I would spend my time doing. So many of my friends already had plans for their summer, but I hadn’t found something as beneficial to my field of study: education. Right when I began to settle for a typical mall job, the gates of heaven opened and the stars aligned when I was told about an internship at the Milwaukee Art Museum! I eagerly dropped all other applications and began updating my résumé because I knew that this internship had to be mine! Thus, after a few weeks of emails and a meeting with my future boss, the amazing Chelsea Kelly, I was offered the job as the Teaching Assistant Intern! Yes, the title is a mouthful, but my experience as an Intern was amazing, and I think it beats applying makeup at some mall any day (no offense to those awesome cosmetologists out there).

As the Teaching Assistant Intern, or “Chelsea’s Intern” as I became known around the office, my job was to assist in the Summer Internship Program for 16 diverse teens from Milwaukee. I would help to teach small lessons, participate in art studies, and engage in the teaching and learning experience at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The job description, though straight to the point, did not include that I would become so connected with “the teens”, my superiors, and the museum. While working at the museum, I not only obtained valuable teaching experiences, but I became familiarized with the everyday trials and successes of working in a non-traditional teaching environment. I was also given the opportunity to create my own lesson plan and guide a small group of teens in creating their own blog posts for the Milwaukee Art Museum’s blog site!

Emerald's blogging group. Photo by Emerald Summers
Emerald’s blogging group. Photo by Emerald Summers

Even though I was able to contribute a lot of my time and effort into this program, I truly gained so much from my internship and was fortunate enough to take away much more than how to unjam paper in a copy machine. As an intern, I was able grasp a greater knowledge of art as not only something that is aesthetically engaging but as a medium that is a form of expression, a way of communication, and an educational asset to the teaching and learning experience.

During the course of the internship, the group of high school interns visited the 30 Americans exhibition, which includes works of contemporary art that addresses many issues such as race, gender, sexuality, politics, history, and so much more. On the many visits to the exhibition, the group and I always took away something that we hadn’t seen or thought about before. As an educator, I will be placed in culturally diverse classrooms, so being able to connect and share ideas within the program was a great way to prepare and familiarize myself with differing opinions and ways of learning.

Teens look at artwork in the Museum galleries. Screenshot of student final project video.
Teens look at artwork in the Museum galleries. Screenshot of student final project video.

Not many know this, but working in museums offer an array of careers that include not only art but also history, science, math, and of course educating. My boss, Chelsea Kelly, is the Museum’s Manager of Digital Learning. She teaches teen programs that revolve around all types of media and she also works on educational technology projects. While working under her supervision, I was able to receive awesome feedback about my ideas for teaching the blog lesson for my teens. While sharing my progress about my lesson, she told me that no matter how much effort a teacher puts into a lesson plan, it is crucial that educators understand that lessons more than often change or adapt to the needs of the student while always working toward the main objective. That is something that I’ll carry with me throughout my years as a teacher.

Emerald Summers. Photo courtesy the author
Emerald Summers. Photo courtesy the author
In regards to my internship at the museum and my future as an educator, I plan on carrying a lot of my experiences into my second year at Alverno College and my career. Because of my experience at the Milwaukee Art Museum, I am confident that I will be able to create a very engaging classroom environment that fosters creativity. I would also love to carry on the mentality of the wonderful people I met in the museum offices who took the time to encourage my aspirations. People like that are great examples as to how a positive working environment functions. I couldn’t ask for a better experience—it was only was great for the summer but amazingly beneficial to my goals as a future educator. If I had to choose between working at the mall, a medical college’s laboratory, or even another museum, I wouldn’t choose any of them because I’d rather work at the world famous Milwaukee Art Museum… the art of life, education, and achievement of aspirations lives here.

Emerald Summers was the summer 2013 Teaching Assistant Intern for Digital Learning and Teen Programs at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

One reply on “Intern Voice: My Experience as a Milwaukee Art Museum Intern”

I’m so very privileged to have Emerald as a dear friend, and I thank MAM for providing her with this opportunity for her not only her own growth, but the opportunity to grow with teens in Milwaukee!! Go Emerald and go MAM!!

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