When we open ourselves to art, we open ourselves to the world – to beauty, craft, to different cultures, to pain and pleasure, expression and emotion.

A Semester in the Classroom

Interning at the Gibbes Museum of Art this past semester was an amazing opportunity for me. I’m thrilled that I got the chance to work with such great and friendly people. I’m also really excited to be able to include an internship at such a prominent museum on my resume. It will most definitely help with my grad school application in the near future.

School groups have the opportunity to have a hands-on activity
School groups have the opportunity to have a hands-on activity following their museum tour.

While at the Museum, I spent most of my time in the classrooms. This was perfect for me, because while I am a Studio Arts Major at the College of Charleston and I absolutely love fine art, the classroom is where I one day plan to be as an elementary art teacher. At the beginning, my focus was on organizing art supplies and separating them into cabinets and closets. Although a bit tedious, I found it to be very important for classroom management. Unlike many other subjects where you have a book here, some paper there, and a pen or pencil as tools, art uses many materials and supplies. In order for classes to run smoothly everything must have its place, and because of this, I was more than happy (and perhaps a little OCD) to organize and find the right locations for everything. Additionally, I was responsible for labeling the cabinets and closets so that the supplies were easily accessible. Once school group tours began, I helped prepare for activities, make samples for the kids, think of fun ideas, set up for classes, and finally, help with the classes themselves. I would make sure the students understood the assignment, had all the supplies they needed, and were having fun in the process. I would sometimes accompany the classes on tours, and take pictures of the students engaging in lessons about the different works of art. I also helped with other tasks here and there such as making name tags, preparing supplies, grading papers, delivering packages, or whatever else was needed.

Students learn about non-objective artworks
Students learn about non-objective artworks in the “Realm of the Spirit” exhibition.
Students participate in the "Drawing with Friends" collage
Students participate in the “Drawing with Friends” collage after viewing the Guggenheim exhibition.

To me, the interaction with the students was by far my favorite part. Dealing with children from kindergarten age through high school gave me the opportunity to gain experience from each age group, and pinpoint the weaknesses and strengths of the different ages. I loved seeing their many personalities and capabilities. It made me want to have my own classes so that I could get to know them better. Something else I thoroughly enjoyed was being able to go on the tours with the kids and listen to the educators speak about the exhibits. I learned a lot of new details, and it was probably the first time I was really up close to paintings that were so old, or made by such famous artists. The Guggenheim exhibit, Realm of the Spirit, was amazing, and gaining more knowledge of Charleston’s history via the permanent collection was quite fascinating.

Students learn about Chagall, Delaunay and other abstract artists
Students learn about Chagall, Delaunay and other abstract artists on view in Realm of the Spirit.
Children create their own flipbook portraits
Children create their own flipbook portraits after enjoying a tour focusing on portraiture.

One of the most useful things I discovered during my internship was the importance of organization and time management. Additionally, I would say that it is equally important to be able to think quickly on your feet and make adjustments when needed. The best example of this actually occurred on my last day as an intern. When a school group arrived, there were many more kids in attendance than had been anticipated. Because of this, there was a concern that there would not be enough space in the classrooms for everyone. However, my supervisor Rebecca Sailor had the idea to move a few students into the studio space across the hall. By the time the tours were complete the studio had been set up with all the supplies that were needed for the activity planned. I was then able to lead a small group of my own—it was a dream come true. If anything, I wish I could have had more opportunities to teach small groups on my own so that I could get a better feel for what it takes to lead a classroom. I would have also enjoyed talking to the kids about the art in the museum, and leading a couple of tours. I believe that this would have helped me to improve my presentation skills as an educator, which is something I don’t yet have much experience with.

Intern Elise Heslewood with students
Intern Elise Heslewood with students in the Lenhardt Garden following a tour.

Interning at the Gibbes Museum of Art was not only fun; it was also a very insightful and beneficial experience. The Museum itself is beautiful and captivating. It was my first internship and a great one at that. I truly wish that I could have stayed longer, but it is my full intention to return in the future to volunteer, and see the new exhibits to come.

—Elise Heslewood, Education Intern and guest blogger

Published December 16, 2016

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