Finding my voice and footing in the museum world

by Andrea Gonzalez

As the Curatorial, Conservation, and Exhibition Preparation Intern at the Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM), one of my duties this summer has been to assist with the organization of New Voices: The 2018 Student Art Exhibition. Working alongside VPAM director Pilar Tompkins Rivas, VPAM preparator Victor Parra, and guest juror Julian Bermudez has allowed me to see how elaborate, complicated, and ultimately fulfilling the planning of an exhibition can be.

Housed on the campus of East Los Angeles College (ELAC), the museum hosts its annual student art exhibition in an effort to showcase a range of notable ceramics, costume design, photography, painting, sculpture, drawings, and mixed media works produced by ELAC students during the recent academic school year. My specific duties for the exhibition included overseeing the student submission process, coordinating with the guest juror to select the artworks, managing related paperwork, co-facilitating a gallery installation workshop for the students, and supporting VPAM staff with installing the artworks in the gallery.

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Installation view, “New Voices: The 2018 Student Art Exhibition” on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum through November 3, 2018.

My conversations with participating students revealed to me that many of the students had never before exhibited their work in a museum. This “first time” feeling was shared between myself and the students, since it was also my first time organizing an exhibition. This museum internship presented me with many experiences completely new to me, such as creating an exhibition checklist, using museum database software, and managing what seemed like an endless amount of emails. The exhibition specifically also allowed me to talk with students about their artistic process and the best display options for their work. The students and I were both eager novices navigating this process, sharing in the stumbles and excitement along the way.

New Voices helped me realize the immense value of having an annual student art exhibition on campus. For more than 60 years, the Vincent Price Art Museum and former Vincent & Mary Price Gallery have provided ELAC students with the opportunity to showcase their work and provide them with confidence as an exhibiting artist with exposure to the art museums and galleries.

Indeed, a number of notable contemporary artists began their journeys at ELAC, including Gronk, George Yepes, Diane Gamboa, and Patssi Valdez, among many others. A more recent generation of artists who were featured in the student exhibition include Star Montana, a photo-based artist whose work deals with class, social environment, and identity, and Rafa Esparza, a multidisciplinary artist whose collaborative artistic practice centers on history, personal narratives, and kinship. Coincidentally, both Montana and Esparza were later featured in solo museum exhibitions at VPAM, underscoring how their first museum experience contributed to a fruitful career in the art world.

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Installation view, “Rafa Esparza: they spent their time doing nothing. they let intimacy fuse them” exhibition on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum, February 8, 2014 – April 25, 2014.

As I reflect on my internship experiences, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work in an institutional setting and develop my self-confidence and a sense of professionalism. It was exciting to be able to work directly with artists of all ages and backgrounds, and I felt a great privilege being able to work with both established and emerging museum professionals to bring the exhibition to life. The combination of support and opportunity through this internship has given me a deeper confidence in myself and my abilities, and I look forward to what my future in this world brings.

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New Voices: The 2018 Student Art Exhibition is on view September 4, 2018 – November 3, 2018 at the Vincent Price Art Museum.

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