Internship Spotlight: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Heather Wunsch (SMFA ’23) serves as the SMFA’s Polly Thayer Starr Studio Intern at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

What do you do as an intern at this organization?

As the Polly Thayer Starr Studio Intern, I work with the education team at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Most of my time is spent working alongside the Public Programs Coordinator, Gabriella Melchiorri. Together we run the “Saturday Open Studio” in the museum’s educational studio each weekend. During Open Studio, visitors are welcome to take part in a variety of art-making activities that are inspired by the museum’s historic collections and contemporary exhibitions. On Saturdays, I help set up the program in the Education Studio, welcome visitors, explain the project, and help them with any artmaking questions they have. In addition to working Saturdays, I also work one day during the week in the Education Office. I usually spend this day researching art materials for the next studio project or researching local artists to work with us in the future.

How did you find this internship?

I found out about the open position from a recent SMFA alumni, Gabriella Melchiorri, who I met when we were both students at the SMFA. She is now the Public Programing Coordinator at the Museum and was looking for a current SMFA student to fill the summer internship position. She reached out to let me know about the opportunity and to ask if I was interested in applying.

What do you enjoy most about your internship?

Something I really enjoyed about this internship was being a part of the research for local artists to collaborate with in the Studio. I really loved spending time looking through artist’s websites and portfolios, and then being able to meet them as well! One of my favorite memories from my time at the Gardner was when we collaborated with an artist from Providence, Julia Gualtieri. She helped us design a diorama-making project inspired by the Maurice Sendak exhibition last summer: Drawing the Curtain. For one of the Saturday Open Studio days, Julia joined us in leading the program in the studio. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to talk to a working artist one-on-one and learn from some of her past experiences in freelance work. She shared advice with me about finding jobs after graduation and what it looks like to make art in community studio spaces. We both had similar interests in printmaking and ceramics, so it was exciting to get to spend the day with her at the museum.

What did you find challenging?

Something that challenged me in this position was learning how to interact with the public during our Saturday Open Studio programs. I would describe myself as a generally introverted and reserved person when it comes to socializing, but this job requires someone who is able to welcome visitors, explain instructions for the project, and make conversation with the families in the studio. At first, this terrified me!! During my first couple of days in the studio I was very nervous and a little apprehensive about speaking, but after spending more time in the studio alongside Gabriella, I ended up coming out of my shell. I really feel that this challenge has pushed me to become more confident in my public speaking skills and has taught me a lot about public programming in general.

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to make the most of an internship like yours?

My advice would be to talk to and learn from as many people as you can at the museum! Gabriella has been very encouraging when it comes to reaching out to other departments that I am interested in, such as the Conservation and Horticulture team. By doing this, I have experienced amazing opportunities like touring the museum’s conservation lab and watching the horticulture team transform the courtyard each season!

About the Organization

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a magical setting where art and community come together to inspire new ways of envisioning our world. Embodying the fearless legacy of our founder, it offers a singular invitation to explore the past through a contemporary lens, creating meaningful encounters and joyful connections for all.

By Katie Sullivan
Katie Sullivan Assistant Director