In Conversation with a MCA Intern
Senior Psychology student and Drawing and Painting minor Jessica Malatia (JM) speaks with a Fine Arts Marketing Associate (FA) about her experiences as an intern for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and gives advice to other students about internships.
FA: How did you first hear about the MCA internship?
JM: I heard about it on the MCA's website.
FA: Why did you choose this internship over others?
JM: I have always wanted to work in a museum setting, but was unsure of how I could gain the necessary education or experience, since I am not studying Art History or Museum Studies. I decided to intern at the MCA to gain hands-on experience in museum setting, which I would not have gotten otherwise as a Psychology and Fine Arts student. I was elated to hear about the Interpretive Practices internship, since I had the necessary research experience from my Psychology courses and a research project in my capstone class. I did not think that as a Psychology major I could find myself in a museum, but this goes to show the wide variety of positions that are available for people of all backgrounds.
FA: What was your interview like?
JM: I interviewed with my now supervisor. She talked to me about the details of the department first, and described what my position would look like as an intern. This was helpful, because I was unfamiliar with the field of museum interpretation, and could then base my answers on her description, instead of merely based on the info from their website. Then, she asked me a few questions about why I was interested in the internship and what skills I wanted to gain from my time at the MCA. Lastly, she asked me questions about specific exhibitions I could remember that were impactful to me from past visits to museums. I talked about the exhibition design in the Magritte show from the Art Institute, as well as the interesting tools used to get visitors to interact in the Van Gogh's Bedrooms show (also at the Art Institute). I definitely was not expecting these questions, but after the fact, I realized she was asking about my experiences with interpretive tools in museums!
FA: What do you do at this internship?
JM: I intern in the Interpretation department, which deals with both interpretation and evaluation. In regard to the interpretation part, I research content for interpretive spaces and interpretive tools. Some of my tasks have been to research new and interesting ways to display labels for works of art, and even selecting advertisements from vintage magazines that are on display in the current Howardena Pindell exhibition. In regard to evaluation, I get to conduct exit interviews with visitors to hear about their opinions on the exhibitions. I also do timing and tracking studies. This involves discreetly following visitors through the galleries to track which works they stop at, as well as timing how long they spend in the galleries. Lastly, I help with the docent program, which includes editing docent training materials and attending docent tours of the exhibitions.
FA: What is your favorite part of your internship?
JM: I have really enjoyed meeting some of the exhibiting artists and hearing them speak about their work. Aside from that, I love learning about the behind-the-scenes functioning of the museum. Whether that means chatting with museum guards, attending curator tours of the exhibitions, or learning about the ways exhibitions are evaluated, I enjoy it all. I truly feel like my interests and my learning goals are in mind, and that my input is valued.
FA: What is the most surprising or unexpected thing that you have learned so far?
JM: I have been most surprised to learn that the staff at the MCA come from a multitude of different backgrounds. Like I mentioned before, I worried that without an Art History or Museum Studies background, I'd never find myself working in a museum. Through my time here, I have learned that people with many different backgrounds and skill sets can fit into a museum's workplace. This makes me hopeful about my future career opportunities.
FA: What classes helped prepare you for this internship? And how?
JM: I am a Psychology major and a Drawing and Painting minor, so many of my Psych classes prepared me for my internship. Since my internship at the MCA deals with evaluation, my research experiences in a Psych lab and my capstone course prepared me well. FNAR 311 and my Modern Art classes helped as well, because they helped me become well-versed in modern and contemporary art. This was not necessary for the internship, but it definitely helps to understand all the art references made by everyone working around me! Lastly, my time as a Main Office Student Assistant for the DFPA prepared me to feel comfortable working in an office setting. I have gained a great array of administrative skills as well as the confidence to work independently, which helped decrease my nerves about starting the internship in a new place, surrounded by full-time staff.
FA: Did any faculty help you? And if so, in what ways?
JM: Last semester, I took my Psychology capstone course, which was a human services internship. The capstone also had a once a week class associated with it, so I asked my professor for a letter of recommendation. She could vouch for my experiences as both an intern and a student, which was very helpful.
FA: What advice do you have to other students looking for internships?
JM: Reach out both to organizations that do advertise internships and those that do not. For the MCA, their internship program is clearly advertised on their website and the program is well established. In these cases, finding and applying for an internship is pretty easy. However, there are many more organizations that could accept interns, but might not have it listed online. If you find an organization you want to learn more about or potentially work at, but their website says nothing about internship positions, don't give up there. Feel free to reach out and introduce yourself, ask if they accept interns, and attach a resume.
My second point of advice is to ask for help. If you are applying to an internship with an application, letters of recommendation, and a cover letter, don't feel like you have to do it alone. I spoke with someone at the Career Center for help clarifying my resume, and they helped me put my experiences into words in a concise and clear way. If you are searching for internships and the organizations you are interested in don't list positions on their website, ask for help, too! Speak to your advisor about places that students have interned before, so you can reach out to places that might be more likely to accept interns.
Introducing the new faces of our production workshops!
The Department of Fine and Performing Arts is always evolving, and this year was no different as we welcomed three full-time staff members! Austin Pettinger (Costume Shop Manager), Clare Roche (Lighting and Sound Supervisor), and Justin Snyder (Technical Director), are a talented group of people who are thrilled to share their expertise and to inspire students to go beyond their comfort zone. Read on to learn more about how they found their place in the theatre world and how they hope to make their mark on our department.
Each of the three discovered their love of the arts early on in their lives. Austin was introduced to sewing in 6th grade: “I bought a few books on sewing, went to an auction with my grandfather to buy a used $15 sewing machine, and taught myself to sew.” Through YouTube videos and high school costume construction, Austin honed his skills and decided to pursue a BFA in Costume Designs and Technologies from the University of Evansville.
Clare worked her way through many aspects of performance, from "playing violin in the pit orchestra for musicals at [her] high school, running the light board, designing lights, sets, and stage managing." Although she enjoyed designing, Clare especially fell in love with being an electrician and went on to study Theatre and English here at Loyola.
Justin found the perfect blend of construction and creativity through building sets in middle and high school. He studied Business Administration at Chapman University in California before working in theatre throughout Phoenix and Los Angeles for several years. About six years ago, Justin moved to Chicago. He most recently served as the Assistant Technical Director for Court Theatre, and in 2015, Justin earned the Emerging Technical Collaborator award at the Michael Merritt Awards. Several industry colleagues pointed Justin toward Loyola, and our department’s "inventive and inclusive culture" intrigued him enough to apply for the position.
Other twists of fate led our staff to Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts. Austin’s first job in Chicago was assisting Loyola’s previous Costume Shop Manager, Alex Meadows, with a costume design on a professional production in the city. Along with that job, he has also worked with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Timeline Theatre, Papermill Playhouse, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and many more. Once he established himself in Chicago, he took on a part-time draping position in Loyola’s shop. In the spring of 2017, Austin was hired as the new Costume Shop Manager.
Since graduating from Loyola, Clare has worked all across the country. She has traveled as the Production Stage Manager and Tent Boss for New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat; has worked in Chicago as a Lighting Supervisor and Stage Manager at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Victory Gardens, The Hypocrites, among others; and has worked as Master Electrician at Loyola in some capacity since 2010. Clare started independently contracted in the Mullady Theatre (Loyola’s previous performance space), and once the Newhart Family Theatre opened, she was hired part-time before recently being hired as full-time staff.
Because of Clare’s experience pursuing different positions and working with several styles of the arts, she encourages students "to take advantage of every opportunity they can in order to be a well rounded person." Clare hopes to bring to Loyola students the inspiration to try new things and to encourage them to explore all the facets of the performing arts.
Austin cannot wait to share his passion while simultaneously exploring new techniques to expand his knowledge and that of his students. Also, recognizing the creative freedom our department encourages, Austin wants to "help students cultivate a higher standard of technical ability and explore options in the professional world they may not have known were available."
Justin is ready to get "young persons excited about building things—not just scenery—so they feel empowered to go out in the world and make great art." He also hopes to foster an appreciation for the hard work that technicians do to create the world of a show. At Loyola, Justin loves the enthusiasm students invest in their projects, and he claims their willingness to put forth a collaborative group effort is unmatched even by professionals in the industry.
Our Department has already benefited tremendously from the energy, enthusiasm, and expertise that these three bring to our production shops. Each theatre major will have the opportunity to engage with them through the costume construction, scenic construction, and electrics practicums, and many students also have the opportunity to be hired in our shops through work study. When asked what she is looking forward to most in her new position, Clare remarked, "I am most excited about being a more active participant in the education of our students, and teaching them about the aspects of theatre that a lot of people don't get to see—the backstage life."