The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) is taking a stand against unpaid internships. On Thursday, the organization’s board of trustees passed a resolution urging institutions to provide paid internships. The resolution stated that “art museums should pay interns, except in special circumstances justifying such an arrangement.” Those special circumstances, an AAMD announcement clarified, are situations in which an intern is receiving academic credit for their internship and is not eligible to receive payment on top of those course credits.
In a statement, Institute of Contemporary Art Boston director Jill Medvedow—who co-chairs AAMD’s Professional Issues committee—said:
Internships are an important gateway for those seeking careers in art museums, providing incredible opportunities for hands-on experience in many aspects of an institution’s operations. Yet by failing to pay interns, we ensure that these experiences are only really accessible to those who [are] already financially secure and, often, people who have established career networks available to them.
A recently circulated public spreadsheet of art industry salary information included details about a number of unpaid internship positions—some of them at institutions whose directors are AAMD members.
Internships are early career stepping stones for many aspiring arts professionals. A study by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) found that a full 69 percent of undergraduates in the U.S. who graduated from arts programs between 2009 and 2013 had interned at least once while they were in school. The same study found that 89 percent of recent graduates who’d done paid internships found work within a year of graduating, compared to 77 percent of recent graduates who had not done paid internships.
Another sample in the same study found that students who worked an unpaid internship had only a 2% better chance at getting a job in the first year after graduation compared to those who had not.