“When you’re at an organization like, say, Self Help Graphics & Art in East Los Angeles, and there’s a [small staff], in a way, you have an opportunity to work with and interact with all of the staff, which is really valuable,” Preciado said. “You get to do a little bit of everything, and you get a different kind of training than at a larger institution where there’s one person for one role.”
A spokesperson for Pace Gallery
—which has 10 locations around the world, and typically hires 5 interns for the spring and fall semesters and 10–15 in the summer—concurred. “Ask yourself if you are more comfortable working within a global gallery setting or if you enjoy a more intimate team. Go to a few openings and see how they interact with visitors and what kind of mood they set for their staff.”
For prospective interns looking for hands-on experience with an artist’s practice, many individual artists offer internship opportunities, as do many leading artist residencies. Artpace, a San Antonio–based nonprofit, offers about 15 intern positions per year in several different departments, according to education coordinator Ashley Mireles. Those positions include studio interns, who “assist artists in the residency program with the production of new projects and may work with technical and studio staff to plan, install, and de-install artwork and exhibitions,” she said.
Irrespective of what specific role an intern may take, Mireles said a key component for any successful internship is clear communication. “The ability to self-identify qualities the intern would like to improve during their time” is essential, she said, “as well as being able to communicate how they believe their supervisor could help them meet their goals and expectations.”
There’s no efficient way to go about finding and applying for art-world internships—short of visiting the websites of individual organizations and artists—and there are relatively few centralized resources for finding opportunities. One popular resource is the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA)’s classified listings database
, which features a range of paid and unpaid internships at organizations from the Museum of Modern Art to nonprofits like the Judd Foundation
and galleries like Sperone Westwater
NYFA monitors internship listings on its classifieds site to make sure they aren’t job listings in disguise. “NYFA requires that all internships that are listed on our board highlight the educational value to be gained by the intern,” said NYFA’s senior manager of advertising and data strategy, Molly Martin.
Another popular listings site, Jobs.art
, has a strict policy against listing internships. “The ‘no internships’ policy is one way to promote fair pay for honest work,” said Clynton Lowry, the editor-in-chief of Art Handler
, out of which Jobs.art was born. “Even if we were to list paid internships, it would still be impossible to make a living on an internship wage alone. ‘Paid’ internships rarely equate to a minimum wage, and we have a responsibility to both the employer and
While paid internships offer vastly different compensation across the art industry, SNAAP’s 2015 study confirmed that art students who’d had paid internships consistently found jobs more quickly following graduation. A full 89 percent of students who’d had a paid internship found work within a year of graduating, compared to 77 percent of students who had never been paid interns. Unsurprisingly, paid internships are the most competitive.
Last year, the Met’s paid summer internship programs received over 1,700 applications for 40 slots. “So many of the students in that 1,700 should have been here, but we just don’t have the money or resources,” explained Jackson-Dumont. For the ones who do get an internship, she said, “we tell them: not to stress you, but you need to make the most of this.”