Milwaukee Art Museum, US

Chelsea Emelie Kelly, 12.12.2014
An internship programme for teenagers
The teen internship programme at the Milwaukee Art Museum provides skills development, and on-the-job experience, and helps participants envision their future relationships with museums.

The museum offers two to five internships a year, which focus variably on art history, museum studies, and studio art. Each culminates in a final project with a real-world impact, from designing a social justice mural advertised on a city bus, to creating online resources about artworks for visitors.

Museums can be intimidating, so ensuring participants feel respected, safe and valued is key to the programme. We do this through discussions with peers about art and community; meeting museum staff to learn about careers in cultural institutions; and job skills workshops such as résumé writing.

Teenagers are mentored by staff and artists, and in turn mentor elementary school students through gallery tours.

Conversations and projects are driven by the teenagers’ interests. For most students, it is the first time they have been in a room of peers all equally as passionate about the arts as they are.

The museum provides stipends, free bus tickets, and lunch or dinner to participating students.

In the short term, the students become more reflective, as this blog demonstrates.

One student wrote: “Even in school I think deeper about what I’m doing or why this was made or why this happened.”

In the long term, alumni – now museum staff, artists, educators, fashion designers, graphic designers, and more – identify these internships as the moment that they realised they could get paid to do what they love.

Chelsea Emelie Kelly is the manager of digital learning at Milwaukee Art Museum