Art History | General Communications
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
How has your internship helped build skills and clarify your career goals?
After graduation from Purdue, I plan to attend graduate school for Museum Studies or Arts Administration (programs vary slightly by the institution). I have been fascinated with museums ever since I was young. My position at Intuit provided me with many skills utilized within the museum field. My work with the Executive Director gave me experience in a variety of administrative practices such as communicating with Board members, discussing strategic financial plans, and – quite a unique experience – addressing how to coordinate exhibitions and programming while the museum is under expansion and renovation. More so, my role extended beyond administrative work. Due to the small nature of the museum, I learned from interactions with almost every department. I personally worked with the museum’s registrar in completing condition reports, I sat with curators – guest and Intuit staff – to create and copy edit exhibition materials, and I worked closely with Intuit’s Development Coordinator to facilitate fundraising events and create membership materials. My work at Intuit strengthened my love and appreciation for museums and I feel so grateful to have served as an intern with the Intuit staff for two years in a row.
How do you apply your Liberal Arts skills in your internship?
I've been fortunate to have worked with some really great nonprofit arts organizations throughout my time at Purdue. One thing I learned from these experiences is that museum work is never routine or mundane. It requires a diverse background with multiple skill sets including critical thinking, effective communication, as well as diligent and creative problem-solving. It also requires a passion for the institution’s mission statement. My Liberal Arts education provided me with these skills, not only through the classes associated with my majors but also CLA core classes. For example, I used my knowledge of French to aid in the copy editing of exhibition materials traveling to a show in Paris. Additionally, I’ve been responsible for various communication practices ranging from discussing donor cultivation events with the museum’s Board to writing membership materials for potential new members. These tasks incorporated skills I learned through my various communication classes. Though my knowledge on Outsider art initiated completely from my work at Intuit, my art history professors equipped me with the critical analysis skills required when learning about new art and its relation to social, political, and historical contexts.
What is a typical day like as an intern, any challenging or exciting aspects?
In my experience of working for a small nonprofit art museum, I can happily say there is no “typical” day! For me, that’s part of the beauty of the museum field. Other than the longer-term projects I support, I never know what new task my boss will have for me next. Some days I participate in meetings discussing Intuit’s Capital Campaign. Other days, I work alongside our Development or Marketing Coordinators to conduct research or create program materials. There is always something to do in the museum and I find the ever-going responsibility challenging and inspiring. The biggest challenge when starting my internship with Intuit last summer was learning about a field of art of which I had no previous knowledge. Outsider art, also known as art brut or folk art, is work created by artists who demonstrate little influence from mainstream art and are instead motivated by their unique personal drive to create. Due to its wide range and regionality of the genre, it doesn’t necessarily fit into the canon of art history. Therefore, I never learned about Outsider art in a classroom setting. It was an exciting challenge to quickly learn as much as possible about this style of art – who its leading artists were, their impact and work, and what’s being done to promote it so I could best support Intuit’s efforts.
As a returning intern at Intuit, I thought I knew what this summer would have in store for me; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find a completely different set of opportunities. Not long after starting my internship this summer, I was promoted from Administrative and Development Intern to Executive Associate; meaning I now held more responsibilities under the supervision of the Executive Director. In addition to the increase of rigor, I found Intuit’s growing atmosphere to be inspiring. The museum is currently preparing for expansion starting next summer – not only in physical space but in collections and programming, as well. During the summer of 2017, I worked on Capital Campaign projects but I became much more involved this summer. The renovation created a constant buzz in the museum, and it was an incredible experience to be working alongside and aid experienced museum professionals who would directly impact both the expansion and future success of the growing nonprofit.
I knew museums were dependent on volunteers and interns when I first started researching museums and listening to museum-generated podcasts. However, I never truly understood the scope of work these extra hands do to help these cultural institutions until I started working in one. While it’s true I performed some minor tasks considered “typical intern work”, I was also given projects that involved maintaining external relations with other cultural institutions and even Illinois representatives and senators. Additionally, the staff at Intuit always treated me with respect and a sense of professionalism – no matter if I worked the front desk or with them directly on a project. Intuit truly cares about everyone helping advance their mission, regardless of the role or position. I think it is why the museum’s volunteer network is so strong and interns like me go back for more than one summer. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have formed such a strong relationship with my boss. Deb Kerr, Intuit’s Executive Director, is an exemplary model of what I believe a museum professional should be; she is also a mentor and friend to me. Deb took the time to learn my motivations and career ambitions and, as a result, provided me with work experiences that will positively impact my future quest for graduate schools and a museum career.