2014–2015 High School Interns meet with artist Bari Kumar

Then and Now: High School Interns Look Back

December 30, 2015
Eduardo Sanchez, Education Coordinator

Since 1997, the High School Internship Program has offered many different approaches in response to the changing times, from exploring students’ relationship to technology to undertaking new approaches to arts-based learning styles. One constant has been our commitment to introduce the museum, special exhibitions, and LACMA's staff to a small group of students from L.A.-area public schools. Students also take part in special projects and events, and visit with exhibiting artists in their studios. Interns also work side-by-side with LACMA’s teaching artists, learning to become artist assistants for museum programs. Uniquely, through their weekly training sessions, the interns gain knowledge about an exhibition, learn gallery teaching techniques, and work on their public-speaking skills. At the conclusion of their training, interns lead exhibition tours for younger students and their high school peers.

It is no surprise that LACMA’s High School Interns come back years later to share their stories and memories of how the program has made an impact on their lives, and how the experiences they gained helped them foster new connections and an interest in the arts. It has been a true honor to be part of this mentorship program as one of the coordinators, along with Amber Edwards, and to work with such talented youth. Since the program’s inception, over 115 schools have visited the museum for more than 700 intern-led tours, reaching over 8,000 students. To cap a yearlong celebration of LACMA’s 50th anniversary, I asked internship alumni to send in their memories of their time at the museum.


Nicolei Gupit, High School Intern, 2007–2008

Photo courtesy Nicolei Gupit

“The internship helped me discover new, exciting ways to love art and also be open to new ideas and diverse people. It made me realize that I wasn't the only artistic geek my age, and that there were at least a handful of kids who were just as talented or even more so. The intern experience at LACMA helped me get where I am today by guiding me to seeking artistic and teaching experiences that deepen my passion for art and education. About five years after the internship, I graduated from Williams College with honors in art and was awarded the Karl E. Weston Class of 1896 Prize for Distinction in Art. More recently, my focus has been on gaining experience teaching abroad. I spent the last full year teaching high school students in Micronesia in the Pacific. Now I am gearing up for another year in teaching English in South Korea in early 2016.”  


Valentina Mogilevskaya, High School Intern, 2007–2008

Photo courtesy Valentina Mogilevskaya

“My most positive experience with the High School Internship Program was getting to work with the education department at LACMA. Helping with the different programs and interacting with the educators inspired me to become a teaching artist myself. I am an art teacher at a local LAUSD charter and continue to work at the museum as a teaching artist and get to spend time sharing art that I love with children and families.”


Maya Festinger, High School Intern, 2009–2010

Photo courtesy Maya Festinger

“There are so many precious things I got from the LACMA High School Internship. I can say it was instrumental to the professional life I have today. Since heading to Chicago for college, I have worked as a development intern at the Hyde Park Art Center and membership coordinator at the Oriental Institute Museum. None of those experiences would have been possible without the LACMA internship, and when I take on projects at other cultural institutions, I sometimes find myself asking, 'How would LACMA take this on?' I still admire how LACMA keeps its collection connecting with the public at large—how it has earned its place as a center of gravity for so many different L.A. communities. I still vividly recall many memories and moods from my time as an intern at LACMA. I remember giving tours of The Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures, and how the internship mentors at the time gave me the tools to start exciting, even challenging, conversations about post-war Germany with elementary and middle school students. I am so lucky to say my first job ever grew into a second home!”


Jenisa Keovichit, High School Intern, 2010–2011

Photo courtesy Jenisa Keovichit

“To this day, I still consider the LACMA High School Internship Program to be one of my most fulfilling and educational experiences. Thanks to HSIP and our amazing mentors, I not only was able to work on events such as the opening of the Resnick Pavilion, EatLACMA, and After Dark, but I was also able to enrich my own knowledge of art, whether through the opportunity to lead exhibition tours or through working with other artists and designers. I have since interned and worked at various companies such as Snake Oil Cocktail Company and VOGUE Thailand, and I do not think it would be a stretch to say that the HSIP played a very big role in shaping the career path that I am on now.”


Marylin Liu, High School Intern, 2011–2012

Photo courtesy Marylin Liu

“There are so many great things about the LACMA internship that it’s difficult for me to pinpoint just one positive experience. Here I was, not even out of high school, working at one of the most amazing encyclopedic museums, with a backstage pass to all the exhibits and art departments. When I look back on my time as an intern, I just remember leaving every Thursday feeling inspired and so excited about life. I learned about ways to lead tours in an inclusive and collaborative style and it was so empowering to me. I realized this when I started having teachers come up to me and say they had students who were always disinterested and unfazed in their art class, but after my tour, they started seeing art in a new light. Shortly after, I began my undergraduate studies at Humboldt State University. During my first year in university, I found this really neat nonprofit program called ART (Art Recreational Theater) at this organization known as the YES House (Youth Educational Services). I started volunteering with ART and began offering free arts education to youth who were underprivileged in the local community. There was an opening for one of the director positions. I took that opportunity, and much to my surprise, only after a semester of volunteering, I was promoted to the director position. I believe part of my success as a volunteer, and then a director, was due to the knowledge and professionalism I gained at LACMA at such an early stage of my life. At 20 years old, I was the director of my own nonprofit program. I transformed the ART program to work collaboratively with other nonprofits so that we were able to bring free arts education to not only youth in poverty, but also youth in transitional homes, at-risk youth, and foster youth. Today, I am a program consultant at Youth Educational Services, which means I actively consult and provide support for the various directors of our nonprofit programs. In total, YES houses 16 programs, all of which serve the community in a unique way. Similar to how the different departments at LACMA work together, as a program consultant, I also work collaboratively with the governing body, the service learning center, university administrators, and other staff. I am due to graduate at the end of the upcoming spring semester, and I know the arts will stay with me no matter where I go. Even if art serves me in an untraditional sense, I know it will serve me and those around me in a powerful way.”


Camille Saltzman, High School Intern, 2011–2012

Photo courtesy Camille Saltzman

“I always think of my time as a High School Intern fondly and frequently reference it as an extremely rewarding experience. It was such an asset to my growth as a student at the time as well as an incredible influence to my subsequent internships. Utilizing the fact that I was part of such a unique experience gave me an edge as an applicant for various creative and educational jobs. Additionally, I am a better public speaker because of the training we received as tour guides—a skill I often use when I have to make classroom presentations as an ambassador for the study abroad department at my university. I am so grateful for my time as an intern and hope other institutions can follow LACMA’s lead in providing these kinds of opportunities for young students.” 


Cameron Robinson, High School Intern, 2012–2013

Photo courtesy Cameron Robinson

“My favorite part about the internship was developing an incredibly intimate tie to such a public institution. When I go back to LACMA I feel more comfortable than I do in almost any other place. Walking through completely silent exhibits with only a few other peers feels so personal and emotional. You are able to see how a place, although crowded most of the time, can give you a type of spiritual clarity that you can still see with loads of people there. Although no place can be compared to LACMA, this is the reason why I strive to work in museum administration, and I chose to study abroad in Berlin because of the art. Everything else is secondary.”


Katherine Chavez, High School Intern, 2013–2014 

Photo courtesy Katherine Chavez

“One of my favorite parts of being a High School Intern at LACMA was working at the Day of the Dead event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery each November. This event helped me realize my interest in Latin American art in particular, and is one of the many reasons that I am now studying both art history and Latin American studies at Brown University. From the costumes and altars to the food vendors, working at this event was educational and enjoyable, and it was especially fun to see young children exploring a culture that they may not embrace in their daily lives. This experience working with children, as well as working at Family Workshops, giving tours, exploring the Charles White Elementary School Gallery, and many other events also fostered my interest in art education. In fact, I may be enrolling in an education class for next semester that focuses on the influence of culture in child development! In other words, the High School Internship Program at LACMA changed my life and is responsible for guiding me toward my passions.”


Amara Hopping,  High School Intern, 2014–2015

Photo courtesy Amara Hopping

“Every day that I got to spend as an intern at LACMA was a privilege. I got to participate in the conversation the museum continues to have on the importance/relevance of art while working in public programs, working and learning from curators, and giving tours to students. All aspects of the internship reinforced my ambition to continue training as an artist in college and thinking critically about what role art plays in lives of those who are not part of the ‘art world.’ A highlight of the year was visiting Sterling Ruby’s studio, where we had an inside look at the complex culture and economy of the art world that supports a major artist like Ruby. This was a pivotal moment for me in raising my consciousness and awareness of the type of work I produce going forward and how it will contribute to this visual conversation and economy of the art world (and perhaps beyond). My endless thanks to Amber Edwards and Eduardo Sanchez for giving me the opportunity to grow at this level.” 


Hanna Kazemi, High School Intern, 2014–2015

Photo courtesy Hanna Kazemi

“I remember walking through the angled, maze-like walls, with spaces that throbbed with smoke and held grand pieces of majestic art, which made up the Pierre Huyghe exhibition. I couldn’t stop thinking to myself that I was essentially paid to be overwhelmed with art and its relationship to the world on a weekly basis. What attracted me to applying for an internship at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was my complete fascination with the human psyche and its interpretation of the world around us through art. I truly find it mesmerizing that every piece of art at an institution such as LACMA holds an incredible amount of meaning and historical relevance. It was always extremely interesting to hear about the 'behind-the-scenes' work that goes into creating an exhibit, arranging art pieces, working with the artist, and also giving meaning to the art that is displayed. I always left my job feeling overwhelmed with fascination toward the art world and how it relates to humanity on a greater scale. Working at LACMA truly made me more in touch with not only the art world, but myself and the world around me, and for that I am forever grateful.”  


Devin McMahon, High School Intern, 2014–2015

Photo courtesy Devin McMahon

“Applying to LACMA's internship program was by far one of the best decisions I've ever made. It gave me a space to delve into my interests in a way I had never been able to, meet others who shared my love for art and art history, and discover what it's like to work in a museum. I came from a huge public high school whose crippling budget cuts never gave me the opportunity to even visit a museum on a field trip, let alone offer me an art history course. LACMA taught me how to approach, analyze, and present art. Thanks to the program and its impact on me, I'm declaring my major as art history next year.”  


Jack Reimer, High School Intern, 2014–2015

Photo courtesy Jack Reimer

“The LACMA internship program allowed me to meet a lot of really interesting people who do a lot of really interesting things throughout the museum. To have the LACMA internship program facilitate discussions between enthusiastic students and respected cultural leaders in the city was enlightening in the moment and will be undoubtedly appreciated throughout my continued higher education.”

Then and Now highlights individuals who have had a deep engagement with LACMA and its collections through education programs.