by Madison Quiroz, Curatorial and Collections intern
COVID-19 is an omnipresent and pervasive force with hands in every area of life. Its reach is definitely felt in the museum world, where museums across Los Angeles County have been required to shut their doors to the public and cancel exhibitions. With the Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) also falling into this category, I truly had no idea what to expect when I began my remote internship this summer. When I started, my intern projects did not reflect the shift to online work. Originally, my focus as an intern was to assist with the annual student exhibition. However, now that this was off the table due to the museum’s closure, my entire internship trajectory shifted to focus more on curatorial planning and special projects. One of my first tasks as an intern was to draft a new timeline for the course of my 10-week internship, which allowed me to reevaluate what I wanted to get out of a remote internship and how I could work to fulfill those goals.
My new focus as the Curatorial and Collections intern was to assist the curatorial team with an upcoming exhibition dedicated to sound-based works by Latinx artists, from early avant-gardism of experimental sound art to new interdisciplinary practices. The exhibition is scheduled to open in 2021 pending state reopening directives for museums. I participated in weekly meetings with the exhibition co-curators and was able to experience how exactly an exhibition comes into fruition, from its initial conception to its planning and implementation processes. I quickly learned about how much research goes into planning an exhibition, and I took part in this research as well. I conducted specific research on artists and artworks for consideration in the show and also produced an annotated bibliography with academic sources related to the exhibition’s themes. I joined the team somewhat near the middle of their exhibition’s planning, so I was able to experience the selection process as well as how the team worked out layout and technology needs. Additionally, I was able to join in on numerous video calls to artists in order to discuss their work and their possible interest and connection to the show. These calls taught me a lot about how to establish relationships with artists and what best practice is when it comes to reaching out to artists to be included in a show.
COVID-19 has left many museums rethinking the interactive factor of visitor engagement. Another one of my tasks included investigating various listening methods for some of the works in the exhibition. Since shared headphones were no longer a post-COVID-19 friendly option, I researched various listening technologies that would be effective in transmitting clear sound with little to no visitor interaction as well as minimal sound overlap with other pieces. While conducting my research, it became clear that many museums and galleries were in the same position that VPAM was in, and it made me consider what museums would look like post-COVID-19, and how museums could still engage and interact with visitors in a way that followed safety procedures while not diminishing the effectiveness or integrity of an exhibition or an artist’s work. Additionally, with stay-at-home orders still in effect, I began to wonder what the role of the museum is in a digital age. I realized that the online interface is where most of our visitors are interacting with us currently, so I began to shift my focus in my remaining weeks on rethinking the museum’s website.
With digital interaction being more prevalent than ever, many museums have been strengthening their online interface and even providing options for online or virtual exhibits and digital archives. Knowing that many visitors’ first interaction with VPAM may be with our website, I wanted to explore how to strengthen our digital interface and allow our website to act as a space for continued learning, namely focusing on our exhibition pages. Considering the fact that VPAM sits on the East Los Angeles College campus, I wanted to find ways that students could utilize these pages to further their own studies and research. Making our exhibition pages more comprehensive and providing as much information as possible could allow students and researchers to better understand not only the exhibitions but the world of learning that is possible beyond it. I created a template and framework that includes further readings, media kits, installation photography, and artwork features just to name a few. I felt that including these components on the website would better exemplify how exhibitions can act as more than just a place to see art, but a resource for continued learning and engagement.
The overall shift in my internship plan was a blessing in disguise. Having worked on student exhibitions in a previous position, I know that preparing a student exhibition is a much different process than preparing a research-driven group exhibition. Serving on the curatorial team this summer opened my eyes to the power and influence that curators have within the museum world. Learning from curators who see their work through the lens of social justice, equity, and representation is (unfortunately) a luxury that not everyone can claim to have. I was lucky enough to work alongside a team that shared my same values and passions and realize the incredible work that is possible when everyone is invested in the work and people they serve. Participating in the Getty Marrow Undergraduate Internship Program not only granted me a fruitful experience and new skill set, but more importantly opened the door to a world of curiosity, questions, and opportunities in this field. Being on the “inside” helped me understand how I can make a better “outside” — not only in terms of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access to the arts for multiple communities, but also in identifying better ways to include BIPOC in these roles. I leave this internship with questions that allow me to think about the future of museums and the much needed pathways for people like me. I might not have the answers now, but it will be something I strive to answer in my future work in the arts.
Madison Quiroz is a fourth year Art History and Chicanx Studies student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and is the 2020 Getty Marrow Curatorial and Collections intern at the Vincent Price Art Museum. Learn more about her here!
The Vincent Price Art Museum is grateful to the Getty Foundation for allowing us to mentor and collaborate with the next generation of arts professionals in Los Angeles. To learn more about the Getty Marrow Undergraduate Internship Program, along with other museum opportunities at VPAM, please visit the following links: