Polk Museum at FSC Enchanting Education

Sep 5, 2019

by Katherine Stanford ’19
Annual Fund Marketing Intern

In the two years since the Polk Museum of Art (PMOA) and Florida Southern College joined forces many students, artists, and tourists have been positively impacted. Through this affiliation, students have more opportunities than ever before to interact with artists one-on-one, as well as learn about what happens behind the scenes within a museum. I sat down with senior history and art history major Jean Howell ’20 to discuss how this internship has positively influenced her.

Jean is the president of the clubs for both majors. Howell was also a curatorial intern at the PMOA this past spring and is interning at the Frank Lloyd Wright Center through the museum’s internship program this summer. In the fall, she will resume her internship at the PMOA.

Since coming to FSC, how has the art history department grown?

Since joining the program, I have seen some very bright students enroll and there will be a new professor starting this coming semester. The art history department has also branched off of the art department to become its own entity, the Department of Art History and Museum Studies, with a departmental office within the PMOA. Additionally, the number of classes being offered has increased and Department Chair and PMOA Executive Director Dr. Alex Rich has enhanced the ways we can learn by reorganizing the curriculum.

How has the alliance between the College and museum benefited your college experience?

It’s been incredible because we are able to utilize the museum both in and outside of class. We are able to go to the museum and interact with the art, and sometimes the artists, one-on-one. We are also able to visualize, in person, subjects we spend so long talking about. It has provided an excellent gateway for internship and employment potential. I am certain that this will continue to benefit me in my future career endeavors.

Without the alliance, do you think it would have been more difficult to gain work experience within your field?

I have every confidence that my advisor, Dr. Rich, would have still been able to help me foster work experience and internships. However, because of this direct connection to the museum, it has only expedited the process and made it easier, not only for me but also for other students I have seen intern with the museum.

Since Dr. Rich is both director/curator of the museum and a professor at the College, how do you think your education has been impacted?

He has made himself an excellent role model for all the students, and for me personally. It is really inspiring to see one man navigate a career that I am interested in possibly having, right before my eyes. It makes him an invaluable resource for any kind of question I may have, whether it be about his work as a professor, curator, or director. It’s also really exciting to witness, it creates this electric atmosphere on campus with the students knowing that he is vanguarding this alliance, and it’s visible throughout all of the staff and students at FSC.

With the art history department branching out and moving off campus to the museum, how do you think the department will be impacted?

I think that it is going to be a bold and wholly unique move that few other colleges can say they have experienced; that the department of art history is going to be located in a working, thriving museum. Additionally, I think that it is going to be a symbiotic relationship between the College and the museum. It is going to draw more students and more curiosity towards the museum, who might not have otherwise thought to visit the museum before. It is also going to provide the students on campus with better understanding and access to resources and really important pieces of art that they can use to inspire them, no matter what field they are going into. I think anyone can benefit from easy access to the museum, and I am very excited!

How has interning at the museum prepared you for life after graduation?

I think it has set me up for a possible career in the museum industry. I’ve been able to witness practically every aspect of the way a museum is staffed, run, and operates behind the scenes, whether it be curatorial, security, or marketing. I have realized that it takes a village to run a successful museum and after graduation, I’m sure that the skills I’ve gained from working at the PMOA will lend themselves to the various other areas of my life.