Reaching My Full Potential at SAM: Emerging Arts Leader Teagan Nathe Reflects

Growing up, I was always allured by the welcoming mystique of museums. There’s something soothing in the ever-changing exhibitions, never knowing what you’ll find around each corner. A gallery is a space where you can be swallowed up by the art on every wall and forget about the world outside for a moment. I never dreamed that I would be able to be a part of the magic that is Seattle Art Museum and its team of dedicated individuals.

Throughout the course of my internship, I found myself questioning what it meant for a person or community to be reflected on museum walls. Art institutions have historically been a place of exclusion and were known to primarily display the artwork of white male artists. Yet, as society changes before our eyes, these institutions are also changing as they adopt equitable values and acknowledge the harm of their past actions. From my first day on the job, it was clear that everyone at SAM was (and still is) committed to doing this necessary work. The existence of my own role at the museum is evidence of the thought that SAM is putting toward greater inclusion.

In January of 2023, I was offered the position of an Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Equity and Communications. In the six months I spent at SAM, I was able to gain a unique perspective on the inner workings of an incredible institution and highlight the internal work necessary in connecting art to life. During one of my last weeks at SAM, I led a gallery tour discussing artworks that made me feel at home and the significance of changing canon museum artifacts. I took a Socratic approach to my tour, posing critical questions in order for participants to engage deeply with two works: Dawoud Bey’s David Hammons, Pissed Off (1981) and excerpts from Jim Goldberg’s Rich and Poor (1977–1985). I was drawn to these pieces partially because I’m a photographer and these photos were shot on black and white film. More so, these images portray the raw and emotional nature of life. Whether it’s the complexities of race within the arts world or economic class barriers, these artists capture the reality of our contemporary moment.

One of my favorite aspects of this internship was the opportunity to meet so many individuals who are palpably enthusiastic about their jobs. I would like to say thank you to everyone who made me feel at home on the SAM staff, and particularly to my supervisor, Priya Frank. Priya made me realize that I don’t have to sacrifice a single part of myself to be successful and that giving a commencement speech at T-Mobile Park while wearing sparkly Doc Martens, big hoops, and a bright pink lipstick is not only acceptable, but also aspirational. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting Priya will tell you how she exudes pure light and embodies the philosophy of using “joy as my weapon.” Thank you for everything Priya, you’re my idol.

As a newbie to Seattle, I felt disconnected from the art world, as it’s always hard to break in and form connections in a new city. Throughout my time at SAM, I was able to meet many different artists and worked alongside so many talented interns. Thank you to Emma, Zak, Alexa, Jo, Aranya, Elizabeth, and many more folks who brought a smile to my face every day at work.

This opportunity has made me believe in myself as an artist and leader, showing me that nothing can stand in my way from achieving what I want. I am immensely grateful for the ways my SAM internship pushed me to my full potential, and for everyone at SAM who believed in me.

– Teagan Nathe, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Equity and Communications

This article first appeared in the February through June 2024 edition of SAM Magazine and has been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks!

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Improving Your Museum Experience with Technology: Emerging Arts Leader Shuprima Guha Reflects

I’ve always enjoyed spending time in art museums. With ambling hallways and multiple rooms featuring a variety of historic and contemporary art, it’s the excitement of not knowing what I’ll discover next that first got me interested in working at one. I joined SAM with the intention of learning more about how different museum departments come together to facilitate ideas. Suffice to say, I checked off this goal during my first few weeks at SAM. 

As an interpretation intern, I learned how SAM uses technology and verbal descriptions to improve accessibility for different audiences at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Verbal descriptions explain a work of art in terms of its color, size, texture, and other features so that individuals with low or no vision can better experience the piece. I developed the skill of writing for auditory purposes in this process. Conducting research on the most inclusive ways to approach writing these descriptions—along with the continuous feedback provided from the rest of the verbal description team—helped me overcome this learning curve of shifting from writing for reading purposes to writing for listening purposes and led me to produce some of my best work. 

While conducting this work, I began to ask questions about the smartphones that museum visitors can check out while browsing the galleries—part of SAM’s effort to improve in-gallery accessibility. This led to important conversations about how we envision visitors interacting with these devices and what museums can do to support such interactions (thank you to the visitor experience team for their expertise). Beyond these tasks, I also helped in developing the interpretive elements of Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, including the touch cart, in-gallery guide, and the digital collage interactive.

The support I received from the museum’s staff, security, volunteers, and my fellow interns played a tremendous role in how I approached my work. Asking questions to people from different departments created a system of support in which I knew everyone at the museum was eager to help. From isolating digital elements of Hokusai prints with the design team to prototyping a touchscreen interactive with staff from multiple departments, I believe collaboration was essential to my time at SAM. Deciding which topics to research and conducting meetings related to the Hokusai interactive taught me about not only project management, but also about Japanese culture and history. In writing the guide the exhibition’s interpretive touch cart, I also became familiar with the materials used in Japanese woodblock printing—thank you Jessica and Sorrel for your help!

As I began my SAM internship, it was exciting to see all of the tasks that SAM’s staff had planned for me; there was so much to do and so little time! Prioritizing tasks was one of the most important skills I developed. Although each new day was filled with exciting events and meetings, I made important decisions on which ones I attended and which I did not to ensure I could independently complete my tasks within a timely manner. Another skill I learned through this internship was networking. I learned how to ask questions about different staff members’ experiences and took advantage of the opportunity to get to know new people in the office, kitchen, elevators, and galleries. These skills are something I will carry forward in my academic and professional life. 

This internship showed me the initiatives the museum takes in making art accessible to visitors— something that I am particularly passionate about. Knowing that so many people care about the same things gives me immense hope for the future of museums. From accompanying docent-led tours to conducting surveys in the galleries, I learned how to engage with the public and lead conversations about art. As someone who has always been a bit hesitant to voice my opinion in large groups, my newfound confidence and eagerness to speak in public is one of the most valuable lessons I learned at SAM.

None of this would have been possible without the support of my incredibly supportive and encouraging coworkers. I want to particularly thank my supervisor, SAM Educator for Digital Learning Ramzy Lakos, whose creative ideas played an integral role in shaping my SAM experience. His optimism and sense of humor always made even the most challenging task feel simple. I want to thank everyone on the education team as well. Their excitement about the museum’s future shines through in everything they do. Lastly, I am grateful to everyone who I reached out to at various points in the last few months: thank you for making me feel like a part of the SAM community. I look forward to carrying these experiences into the next step of my career.

– Shuprima Guha, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Interpretation

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

The Power of Storytelling in Art Curation: Emerging Arts Leader Elizabeth Xiong Reflects

My first recreational adventure after settling in Seattle in 2021 was to SAM. As I had just recently decided to pursue a second degree in art history, I felt strangely comfortable throughout my visit. I left the museum that day filled with countless stories told through the installations, a growing curiosity for art curation, and a hope that I would be back soon.

And lucky for me, that desire came true. Working under the supervision of Theresa Papanikolas, SAM Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern over the last few months has allowed me to explore what curators do. As part of my role, I was tasked with research and writing supplementary information for the upcoming exhibition Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map. Opening Thursday, February 29 at SAM, the retrospective will survey five decades of Smith’s (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation) work. My work focused on researching and creating an in-gallery display for the exhibition that highlights the artist’s relationship to Seattle.

My research began with sifting through existing scholarship and archival materials on Smith. The more I read, the more I came to understand her as a leading contemporary Native American artist who examines American life by engaging with powerful ideas of Indigenous memory, culture, and history. Although I compiled a hefty list of Seattle public art, exhibition, and curatorial projects she participated in, I felt that it lacked cohesion since the documents appeared separate from existing discussions of her work. How, then, could I organize them together in a display case?

I temporarily filed these questions away as I sifted through 150 newly acquired scans from Smith’s personal archives dating from 1996 to 1998. These digitized letters outlined years of correspondence regarding the West Seattle Cultural Trail, a public art project she created alongside local artists Donald Fels and Joe Fedderson (Okanogan and Arrow Lakes).

As I meticulously pieced together these lengthy conversations, I watched the project unfold from a front row seat. It gave me a glimpse into the public arts process, the intentionality required, and the communications exchanged between differing personalities. I thought back to the initial questions Theresa encouraged me to consider within my work: What is Smith’s presence in Seattle? How do we illustrate it? I then recalled an interview in which Smith was quoted as saying, “All of our stories, all of our origin stories come out of the land.” Her words led me to reevaluate the trail’s physical dependence on land and its goal to “share in the collective memory of the West Seattle community.” 

Suddenly, the collaborative storytelling throughout her oeuvre did not exclude what she accomplished in Seattle. From the trail, my project expanded outwards into three main themes for the display: her dedication to teaching, and the importance of language in her practice, and the role collaboration has played throughout her career. Regarding the retrospective, Smith says “in this long journey, it is step by step, hand over hand, something like climbing a rope.” Therefore, my goal became to guide visitors to see Seattle as a crucial strand in the rope she climbed.

To demonstrate Smith’s dedication to education, her correspondences with Donald Fels revealed their shared interest in involving local students in the project’s development. Smith was adamant that the trail give visibility to hidden stories, and the accompanying Voices of the Community booklet gave students the opportunity to share their perspectives through poetry. Her commitment to education also extends beyond the trail to her other public works, lectures, and children’s workbooks. Considering how her Olympic Junior College art teacher once told her “she could teach… but she shouldn’t count on being a painter,” she powerfully accomplished both. Therefore, when she said “I go out and teach… that’s what my life is about, my work is about,” it is important that our illustration of her presence in Seattle brilliantly reflects this.

That said, the trail allows other dimensions of teaching in her practice to be explored, such as writing. Countless letters between Smith and other Indigenous colleagues reveal that the Native stories told on the trail are intended to teach visitors, and that their accuracy was of the utmost importance.

This intricate combination of writing and collaboration is evident throughout her own curatorial practice, which first blossomed in Seattle. In each exhibition, she approached texts intentionally because writing inclusively “[showcases] the voices of Native artists.” As a curator, her exhibitions helped propel the trajectory of Native recognition in the arts, in turn increasing visibility for new artists. Altogether, her curatorial practice emphasizes that writing and “networking [are] as much for her artistic medium as paint and canvas.”

Lastly, Smith’s insistence on collectivity through collaboration is not limited to her immediate Native community. Her cooperation with other artists of color is a lesser known fact, despite her clear belief that “passion for our art and for one another,” commitment “to narrative work,” and a “strong sense of survival” bonds them together. Therefore, as part of this last theme, which explores Smith’s involvement with Asian Americans through the trail project, I hope to challenge this chronically overlooked detail. 

Numerous letters reveal Smith’s dedication to including Asian American voices in retelling the history of Alki Beach. She spent weeks researching, and gaining approval from local experts and friends to ensure that the communities would be “proud of what is there.” With these letters, I hope to underscore how the diverse experiences and relationships that influence her are not constrained by gallery walls. These strands of her personal history may not be immediately apparent on the surface of her artworks, but through her ties to the city we share, they come to life. 

As a result of my in-gallery contributions to Memory Map, I hope visitors leave SAM with a clear understanding of how Smith and her relationship to Seattle do not stand in isolation. Their interconnectedness leaves room for the viewer to contemplate how their presence in the exhibition’s galleries is also an act of collaboration and learning with Smith. Therefore, it is important that her voice rings throughout my work, such that the answer to her question “can I take these feelings and attach them to a passerby?” is an overwhelming yes. 

I went into this internship eager to peel back the mysterious layers of museum work, in order to discover what processes are involved in curating exhibitions. Sitting at my desk in the corner of SAM’s administrative offices, I was initially afraid that I would feel alone. However, that sentiment couldn’t have been further from the truth. As I uncovered the intentional collaborations that flowed through Smith’s storytelling, I realized the same started swirling into mine. Through this experience, I found myself learning how to research unfamiliar topics with courage, and approach art curation as a storyteller. This growth was only possible because of the incredible SAM staff, who I want to take the time to thank.

I truly started to see curatorial work as storytelling after my lunches with Museum Educator for Digital Learning Ramzy Lakos, where he also encouraged me to use Smith’s own voice to frame my in-gallery display. It was after an insightful conversation with Catharina Manchanda, SAM Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, that compelled me to incorporate Smith’s involvement with other communities of color. I want to thank Carrie Dedon, SAM Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, for reminding me to courageously explore the intersections of my studies and extend a special thank you to my cubicle-mate, Danelle Jay, SAM Curatorial Print and Content Associate, for always lending a listening ear, and reminding me that our storytelling should relate to people. Most of all, I want to thank Theresa, for her indispensable expertise, patience, and genuine collaborative spirit that has made my SAM internship an incredible experience.

As my internship draws to a close, I look forward to seeing how my display comes to life when Memory Map opens at SAM this spring and urge you to visit the West Seattle Cultural Trail in the meantime. I am excited to take everything I have learned at SAM into my future endeavors, and am looking forward to where I next go.

– Elizabeth Xiong, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Curatorial

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Envisioning My Future in Arts Education: Emerging Arts Leader Zakaria Sadak Reflects

If you had asked me about my career plans a year or two ago, I would not have guessed that working at the Seattle Art Museum was in my future. It wasn’t until my first year of college when the histories, values, and principles embedded in my surroundings captured my full attention and academic interest. It left me with no choice but to abandon my math and economics studies in favor of art history. Combined with my latent interest in Korea, as fostered by a childhood richly patterned with Korean objects and visual culture, I chose to pursue a career in museums to further learn and digest my history through the lens of Korean art history.

It is with this background that I entered the Seattle Art Museum for the first time this past January. Though I grew up in various parts of Washington, visiting the Seattle Art Museum had always evaded me. I came to SAM with an interest in art history and connecting students to art, so my work within the institution’s education department creating educator and student materials was particularly relevant. Through all of this work, my supervisor SAM Manager of School & Educator Programs Yaoyao Liu’s mentorship and guidance was crucial.

Aside from putting up with my many (many) questions as I became acquainted with everything, Yaoyao and other colleagues in the education division were the resident experts who helped me get through it all and eventually join them as a staff member. Though general visitors may not be impacted by my work, I want to plug the SAM educator and student offerings. My work creating art activities and in-gallery materials with the exhibition Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth and the traveling exhibition Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston will be available for students to work on in their classrooms and at home, as well as the numerous offerings created by colleagues.

A notable highlight of my internship was my work with Korean objects from SAM’s collection, on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. In March, I offered a presentation to museum staff and the public on a four-panel chaekgeori screen and wooden chest as furnishings in Joseon homes. Through research on these objects, I grew to value the ambiguity of the objects a museum sees come through its doors. That is to say, my research of these objects through the Emerging Arts Leader Internship afforded me the opportunity to break up the polished object lists that neatly fit into textbooks, coursework, and curriculums with objects I might not otherwise encounter.

The Seattle Art Museum is a space to thoughtfully learn about and digest information on a diverse collection of culturally significant artworks. I began my internship at SAM with a limited understanding of museums and am leaving with a clear vision for my future in the museum field and art history. With a two-pronged goal of further understanding Korea’s art history and bridging the gap between esoteric arts research and the public, I can’t help but be sad that I am leaving the work at SAM so soon. As a visitor, intern, and staff member, I certainly have been able to explore where my interest in historical Korean art and I might fit in a museum.

By no means will this exploration end with my time as an intern at the Seattle Art Museum. I am thankful for the support of everyone at the museum both throughout the internship and ongoing as I resume studies in Chicago and begin my next role at the Smart Museum of Art. I want to offer a final thanks to Yaoyao, everyone in the education division, SAM Human Resources & Intern Programs Coordinator Samuel Howes, and my fellow interns for creating the bright, welcoming, and uplifting environment at SAM.

– Zakaria Sadak, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in School & Educator Programs

Photos: Natali Wiseman & Chloe Collyer.

The Multitudes of Museum Work: Emerging Arts Leader Aranya Kitnikone Reflects

“What do you want to be when you’re older?” Time and time again, I’ve asked myself this question.

From a young age, I developed an affinity towards the arts from my older sister, who was an artist. As my role model, they influenced my passion and professional interest for the arts. However, as a first-generation Asian American, I’ve often had to confront the stigma that comes with pursuing a career in the arts and humanities over a more ‘lucrative’ or stable field like medicine or business. In my own family, this sentiment proved especially true; it was considered a waste of time to study the arts. This mindset naturally impacted the decisions I made regarding my own future.

While I love making art and consider myself a passionate and creative person, the negative opinion of my family and colleagues pushed me away from pursuing a career arts. In entering college, I decided to pursue Human Resources and Education (the idea of working adjacent to art had never really crossed my mind). It was only when I discovered an internship in the Seattle Art Museum’s Human Resources department that my passion for creative work was reignited. It served as an opportunity to combine my desire to work in the arts with my desire to pursue a broader career that might be seen as more ‘stable’ to my family (and admittedly, myself).

At SAM, I was encouraged to connect with other creatives to find out what goes on behind the scenes at an arts institution. I was able to schedule one-on-one meetings with staff across different departments of the museum, connect with other interns, and learn more about what museum work really is. I was most excited to meet the people behind the execution of the galleries and to see exhibitions go from the planning stage to the presentation stage. I especially want to highlight my meeting with Jenni Beetem, a fellow Emerging Arts Leaders in conservation, in which I learned about the preservation of yak milk from the Mongol Empire and the fundamentals of art conservation.

Working alongside the Human Resources team was also an invaluable experience. Ellie Vazquez, SAM Human Resources Specialist and my program supervisor, helped me to better understand what equity looks like in a museum setting and how it is practiced throughout recruitment and hiring processes. Throughout my project work, I was able to observe the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices currently in place at SAM, and was tasked with co-editing our Equitable Hiring Guide and hosting a gallery tour of American Art: The Stories We Carry that highlighted the topics of HR and DEI. In that tour, I spoke of how DEI and collaboration have shaped gallery spaces at SAM and beyond, as well as the importance of reflecting the diversity of local communities within museum staff and projects.

In my role as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Human Resources, I created training videos and resources for SAM’s internal staff. Sitting in on staff meetings and having one-on-ones with my supervisor helped me gain a greater understanding of what I wanted my role in (or out of) HR to be. As I performed research on staff benefits—which, admittedly, wasn’t the most exciting aspect of my role—I enjoyed knowing that I could assist someone to understand their workplace better. So, while Human Resources did not start off as a passion, I did find joy in the principles, the learning opportunities, and especially the collaboration and connection fostered in this space. While my work may not have been directly involved in the operations of the public-facing museum space, the opportunity to connect with others behind the scenes will always be a highlight for me.

My time at SAM has been a transformative experience. I have met people from all different walks of life and have been fortunate enough to see the passion that goes into running this museum firsthand. When I first came to SAM, I held all sorts of preconceived notions on what it would be like to work in a museum. In my mind, a degree of privilege and higher education was needed to work in an institution such as this and I thought myself to be a terribly under qualified outsider. The Emerging Arts Leader program does an amazing job of combating these notions, allowing those from different walks of life to participate in, and contribute to, museum spaces. It has given me a greater understanding and respect for these institutions especially as SAM continues to grow and reflect the values of Seattle’s ever-evolving community. In leaving SAM, it’s clear that this institution is the product of a community-wide effort from the visitors, the volunteers, and the staff. Being here has allowed me to shift my idea of museums from being an institution of privilege to a space made for communities.

Finally, I would like to thank the specific individuals who helped me during my time here. I would like to thank my supervisor, Ellie, for all her support and guidance. I would like to thank the rest of our Human Resources team, Kathleen Maki and Andrew Young, and especially our internship coordinator, Sam Howes, for facilitating the internship process and creating a support system for us. I would also like to thank my fellow interns Elizabeth Xiong, Teagan Nathe, Jenni Beetem, Zak Sadak, Rebecca Wong, and Jo Cosme—this experience has been an unforgettable one especially because of the other amazing interns I have met during my time here. While I am now at the end of my time here as an intern, it in no way means the end of my relationship with SAM and its community.

– Aranya Kitnikone, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Human Resources

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad & Sam Howes.

Reigniting My Passion for Museums: Emerging Arts Leader Thaddeus Gonzalez-Serna Reflects

I grew up going to the Seattle Art Museum. Its annual Día de los Muertos celebrations were a tradition for my family. Alongside my mom and sisters, we’d excitedly hop on the light rail and make the trip to the museum. I was always so excited to see the traditional masks displayed in the galleries—first the ones like my parents made for Día de los Muertos in Mexico, and then other examples from around the world. Taking the escalators to the fourth floor to admire the collection of African masks on view was, and still is, my favorite thing to do at the museum. 

Earlier this year, I traveled to Mexico to visit my grandparents and found myself exploring art museums in my free time. In walking through these spaces and admiring the artworks on view, my passion for museum work—that first sparked during my childhood visits to SAM—was reignited.

With my interest in cultural masks, I was excited to be presented with the opportunity to work on a project related to SAM’s Katherine White collection—composed of over 2,000 masks, baskets, textiles, and other objects from Africa. As I dove into drawers of catalog cards, I discovered how a mask’s story was told through its creators, donor, and eventually museum curators. As an Emerging Arts Intern, I helped to update SAM’s online collections record, eMuseum with useful information about many of the objects in this collection.

As part of my internship, I also contributed to labels for objects on view in Pacific Species. With assistance from the curatorial team, I researched the history of Netsuke (small sculptures which developed as a Japanese art form across more than three hundred years) and its relationship to Japanese myths.

My final contribution as a SAM intern was leading a public tour through the museum’s galleries. It tied together my personal interests and work at the museum with a focus on the objects that have always inspired me: masks. I think the tour nicely encapsulated my internship, as I discussed masks from the Katherine White collection, information I learned from my research alongside the curatorial team, and my personal experience with mask-making at SAM’s Día de los Muertos community celebration.

Being at SAM opened my eyes to the volume of work and coordination goes into operating a museum. I learned so much about how departments interact with one another and the many ways scholars, curators, and the public interpret art, museums, and life itself. Whether it was helping SAM Manager of Teen & Family Programs Nicole Henao develop the itinerary of this year’s Día de los Muertos community celebration, assessing records with former SAM Collection Records Associate Elizabeth Smith in the registrar’s office, or talking about object labels with SAM Photographer Scott Leen and Curator of Oceanic and African Art Pam McClusky, I always felt like a valuable part of the SAM team.

This experience also taught me value of approaching new people and asking more questions. I have grown more comfortable with being put into new situations and reaching out to individuals I wanted to learn from. One of my favorite parts of being at SAM was listening to various staff members discuss their day-to-day work because it was these seemingly mundane conversations that allowed me to develop important networking skills. Looking back on my time at the museum, it’s clear how committed every member of SAM’s staff is to providing the best experience for all museum visitors.

– Thaddeus Gonzalez-Serna, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Museum Services

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad & Chloe Collyer.

A Second Chance at SAM: Emerging Arts Leader Jo Cosme Reflects

I began my SAM Emerging Arts Leader Internship in Graphic Design after returning from two back-to-back emotionally intense trips: One to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City to see No existe un mundo poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane María and another to mi Tierra Natal (my Native Land), Borikén (colonially known as Puerto Rico). Why were these experiences so significant to my SAM internship? It’s because they’re what led me to SAM in the first place. I am a Boricua Caribbean Antillean (Native Puerto Rican), born and raised in the aforementioned archipelago of Borikén for 30 years of my life, and was displaced a year after Hurricane María to Seattle. This catastrophic climate event and its austerity measures took away everything I knew in the blink of an eye.

Like many individuals who suddenly find themselves in the US, I had to start my life over. Displacement and culture shock were much harder to navigate than I had expected, and I struggled internally with having to live in the country that’s been exploiting mine for over a century. Opportunities to further my creative career were few as I navigated speaking a second language while neurodiverse, with few established networking skills and no college degree. I was constantly being told by potential employers that although I had an impressive and diverse portfolio, I didn’t “have enough experience.” I felt like I was never going to make it here and considered quitting my passion of being a creative.

An internship seemed like the last best shot for me. I would have the opportunity to relearn everything I needed to know in English, get access to learn new programs at my pace, and could network in a professional setting directly tied to my career path. Eventually, I found SAM’s Emerging Arts Leaders Internship. I read up on the work their Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion department had been doing and I had already only heard great things about its director, Priya Frank. I immediately applied, and lo and behold, I was offered the internship. I couldn’t believe it. Finally, the opportunity I’d been hoping for and it was in a museum! As a creative, I was ecstatic.

Although I was super excited and grateful for the opportunity, I was also equally intimidated to start an internship in such a renowned museum. My impostor syndrome started kicking in. What if I’m not educated enough? What if my English betrays me? What if they use highly academic language and I don’t understand anything? What if my initial nervousness and shyness are misread as uninterested and/or unfit to be a good leader in this environment?

On my first day, I met Samuel Howes, SAM HR & Internship Programs Coordinator, and Ellie Vázquez, SAM HR Specialist. They were very welcoming, careful with their explanations of the museum’s functions, willing to answer questions, and provided a very laid-back, seamless process for what may have been a super stressful experience at other workplaces. I was then welcomed by my department supervisor, Natali Wiseman, and was introduced to the rest of the marketing team as well as some folks from the education team that I’d be working with. Nicole Henao, SAM Manager of Teen & Family Programs, happened to be a Boricua Native to Borikén too, which I only found out because I happened to leave some coquito behind in the staff fridge. I also befriended two Visitor Services Officers—Monique from Taiwan and Marcela from Chile—and later met SAM Volunteers Ying from China and Elba from Argentina. It was great to connect with people who, like myself, had to “brincar el charco” or “cross the waters” in search of a new life. All of this to say, I was very pleased to see how many different stories, languages, and backgrounds I encountered in every department and how wonderful and welcoming everyone was.

As part of my graphic design internship—and because I’m a self-proclaimed Swiss Army knife (meaning I’m good at wearing many hats)—I got the chance to design many museum ads across different platforms, take photos of artworks on view, and help create a video about the Emerging Arts Leader experience that will premiere on SAM Blog in the coming months. I’m excited to include all of these new experiences in my portfolio and am also very pleased to have had the chance to polish my skills, learn new tools, and make new connections at SAM. 

Two projects that stuck out for me were designing the lockup for the 2022–23 Teen Arts Group exhibition, Home is Where the Heart Is, and working on new, multilingual ads for the Seattle Asian Art Museum. I related closely to many of the themes explored in Home is Where the Heart Is, including family, displacement, and longing. It’s like the universe was telling me: “Oh, you just got back from visiting the home you miss dearly, so here’s a chance for you to create this design from your unique perspective”. I developed a palette based on a few colors the teen leaders had chosen, and within those found swatches that reminded me of Old San Juan and the sunsets on my favorite beaches in Cabo Rojo at home. I know firsthand how it feels to live in a displaced body and be forced to learn new interpretations for what home can be. My heart continues in Borikén with my land, friends, and family, but I have been able to make a home here in Seattle too with my three amazing Boricua housemates and my two beautiful partners. I’m happy the team was very willing to let me include my unique experience to this design and was thrilled to hear that the education team loved it.

As my internship comes to a close, I feel a lot more confident in pursuing my creative career and starting all over again. I’m sure it will still be hard, but having had this experience at SAM injected me with the hope and confidence I had long lost after losing so much to Hurricane María. I will look back on this experience and feel nothing but deep gratitude for each person I met at SAM. I also want to extend a special thank you to staff members Priya Frank, Samuel Howes, and my two incredibly talented supervisors Muneera Gerald and Natali Wiseman for believing in me and creating a space that people like myself are so eagerly in search for: a second chance.

– Jo Cosme, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Graphic Design

Photos: L. Fried.

Prioritizing Audience Engagement in Museums: Emerging Arts Leader Doreen Chen Reflects

As a high school junior in 2017, I volunteered at the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s library and caught a glimpse at the inner workings of an arts institution. I never would have known that five years later I would come back to SAM and partake in the Emerging Arts Leader internship. Before becoming a SAM intern and as a recent college graduate, I struggled to identify a career direction and academic pursuits. While I was deeply drawn to the museum world as an outsider and a visitor, I was yearning to discover suitable career paths and learn about professional museum experience so that I could make well-informed decisions for my future. 

Throughout my ten-week internship, I learned how to write object labels. I found myself using research skills that I developed in college to get acquainted with a group of Mithila paintings, despite my lack of familiarity with South Asian art. From speaking with professionals in SAM’s curatorial and education departments, I was able to better understand and keep in mind the intended audience of my descriptions. By the conclusion of my internship, I was pleasantly surprised by my evolving skills as a writer and in expanding my knowledge of Mithila art and Hindu iconography.

Another invaluable part of this internship was the opportunity to connect and conduct informational interviews with members of the museum, including museum professionals, docents, and other interns. While there seems to be an invisible pressure of figuring everything out in one’s 20s, I learned that each person arrived at their point in life and their position at the museum through a unique path. Many of them reminisced that they too did not know what they had wanted to pursue at my age and where they would end up. It is okay to slow down and take time to discover oneself. As I continue to discover my career path and academic directions, I was extremely grateful to everyone who shared their life story with me and offered guidance.

Shadowing both frontline work and behind-the-scenes work gave me different perspectives on viewing a museum’s relationship with the public. Behind the scenes, I witnessed the intricate measurements of displays and objects; I sat in on meetings that discussed exhibit rotations months in advance. On the museum floor, I observed docents translating curatorial visions for the public and was left in awe of their ability to recognize a visitor’s familiarity with SAM with just one look. Getting a glimpse of both sides of the museum allowed me to better understand a visitor’s typical museum experience and create labels that allow them to take new information away from their visit. The docent tours and visitor engagement sessions I took part in demonstrated how public tours are not one-sided lectures, but rather a continuous conversation among visitors, docents, artists, and curators. To put my skills and reflection to use, I crafted my final in-gallery tour on the Inari Worship Spirit Foxes from the museum’s collection while prioritizing audience engagement and participation.

As my SAM internship comes to a close, I have begun to set new goals as I look forward to attending graduate school and finding even more ways to stay involved in the art world.

– Doreen Chen, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Curation

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Endless Possibilities in the Art World: Emerging Arts Leader Samantha Companatico Reflects

Originally from Rhode Island, I spent countless hours roaming the galleries and storied halls of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), soaking in all of the art, and hearing new concepts. I wondered if one day I would be someone whose artwork would be up on those walls. I thought about how I could be a part of creating these special places for others. From there, I attended the San Francisco Art Institute where I obtained my BFA in Printmaking and was selected for the Arion Press Bookbinding Apprenticeship. I recently moved to Seattle for this internship from Portland, Oregon where I was the recipient of the Undergrowth Educational Print Fund, a studio scholarship program at Mullowney Printing Company. I had the opportunity to work closely with several well established artists over the course of both these apprenticeships such as Enrique Chagoya, Marie Watt, Jeffrey Gibson, and Kara Walker. As I move forward in my career, I am eager to find ways to incorporate myself into the local book and print arts community in Seattle.

Admittedly, I felt scared and scattered during my first few weeks at SAM, trying to find my place while putting my best foot forward. When I was first asked to consider the personal and professional goals I hoped to achieve, I only had questions for myself about what I wanted to do and about what I wanted to try next. Is working in a museum for me? Is conservation something I want to pursue further? Do I want to or need to go back to school? These questions shaped my conversations at SAM, and I am so thankful for the support from the conservation department as I confronted these uncertainties. 

While at SAM, I learned about the education and career paths of other conservators and museum professionals. It was eye-opening to see how conservators at SAM build connections and community with other artists and academics. As I focused on conservation writing and object preparation for future gallery rotations, I am now more excited than ever to take my newfound skills into my future endeavors in the art world, whatever they might be.

I believe the path to a better world is through respect for art, the skill of craft, an understanding of people, and a recognition that art has a powerful role to play in supporting a hopeful transformation of the world. The ways in which I see SAM aiming for equity within the entire organization has been inspiring. To have this symbiotic relationship between my personal artwork, my passion for historical objects, and my political convictions is why I continue my work in uncovering hidden histories and sharing my knowledge with others.

It’s bittersweet as my Emerging Arts Leader Internship comes to a close. My experience at SAM has been nothing short of life-changing and my work with the conservation team has been a dream come true. I will always look back on this experience and my time with Geneva, Liz, Nick, and fellow intern Caitlyn fondly. I hope one day again I might have the chance to color match tissue to an object for repair, attempt to reattach a broken handle on a cedar bark purse again, or write one last condition report. I will forever cherish being able to work so closely with objects from around the world. Forming such a personal relationship with the art that I grew up enamored by and considering it in a completely different way has been one of the greatest learning experiences I could have ever hoped for.

– Samantha Companatico, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Conservation

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

Making History: Meet Tanya Uyeda, SAM’s Inaugural Senior East Asian Paintings Conservator

This spring, Tanya Uyeda joined SAM as the museum’s inaugural Senior East Asian Paintings Conservator. A leader in conservation practice, education, and research, Tanya assumes responsibility for the care of SAM’s East Asian painting collection, focusing on conservation treatments and sourcing the necessary specialized materials and tools. 

Her appointment also marked the start of regular activity in the landmark Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Conservation Center, which opened as part of the renovated and expanded Seattle Asian Art Museum in February 2020. The center is one of only a handful of museum studios nationwide dedicated to the comprehensive treatment of East Asian paintings, and the only studio of this type in the western US.

Tanya comes to SAM with over 28 years of experience in art conservation, including over 20 years as a conservator of Japanese paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Born in Eugene, Oregon, Tanya received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies: Japanese Language and History from Oberlin College and earned a Master’s Degree in Preservation of Cultural Properties from Tokyo University of the Arts. She also trained at an elite painting conservation studio in Tokyo. She is one of only four American conservators of a similar background working in a US institution, as there are no conservation training programs for East Asian paintings outside of Asia.

Just a few months into her tenure at SAM, Marketing Content Creator Lily Hansen spoke with Tanya about her short- and long-term goals, what members can expect in her upcoming Up Close With Conservators talk this fall, how she’s adjusting to Seattle, and more.


LILY HANSEN: Welcome to SAM! After spending more than 20 years in Boston, how are you adjusting to Seattle?

TANYA UYEDA: It seems I arrived in Seattle at the best time of year—I’ve really been enjoying this spectacular summer weather! I’ve settled into a home in the Ballard neighborhood and have been getting it ready in anticipation of my family relocating from Boston later this fall. It’s been so nice to explore the Ballard Farmers Market every Sunday and recently took a weekend jaunt over to Bainbridge Island. I also have extended family in the area, and it has been lovely to be able to reconnect with many of them.

LH: How does it feel to be named SAM’s inaugural Senior East Asian Paintings Conservator?

TU: I feel very honored to be chosen for this important new position. Before arriving at SAM, I worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which houses one of the most important and comprehensive collections of Japanese art in the US. Most of my work on the Japanese painting collection supported large-scale touring exhibitions that were shown primarily in Japan. 

I am looking forward to continuing this work at the Seattle Asian Art Museum and contributing to the preservation of, and scholarship on, the museum’s East Asian painting collection. I can’t wait to share my insights with members and visitors alike, and to support the care and appreciation of these important artworks throughout the entire Western Pacific region.

LH: What are a few of the goals you set for yourself in taking on this position?

TU: Since assuming my role, my immediate focus has been setting up the Tateuchi Conservation Center as a fully functioning conservation studio. The renovation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum included the creation of this beautiful new workspace, necessary infrastructure such as work tables, sinks, light tables, and fume hoods. The tatami mat flooring and low work tables are what you would see in a traditional Japanese scroll mounting studio, and is what I am accustomed to from my training.

In addition to the basic conservation equipment, East Asian paintings require highly specialized (and expensive!) materials and tools, such as handmade paper, woven textiles, decorative fittings, and various types of brushes, adhesives, pigments, and dyestuffs. Many of these necessary items are imported directly from Japan and China, and are becoming increasingly difficult to source due to the aging out of the artisans that produce them and a lack of younger craftsmen to replace them.

For example, there is a type of paper called “misu-gami” that is produced in the Yoshino region of Japan and provides the flexible inner structure of Japanese hanging scrolls. However, there is now only one papermaker producing it. I will be relying on the generous cooperation of conservation colleagues in Japan and the US, as well as suppliers and craftspeople, to support me as I work to outfit the Tateuchi Conservation Center and carry out the treatments we intend to complete.

LH: The Emerging Arts Leader Internship Program is an integral part of SAM’s mission to connect art to life. This summer, you welcomed Alexa Machnik as your first Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Conservation. What has it been like working with Alexa? Do you intend to take on more interns in the future?

TU: I was very fortunate to meet Alexa and convince her to spend the summer with me in Seattle before she begins a fellowship with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this fall. As a Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and a fourth-year student in the university’s MA/MS program in art history and conservation, she also has extensive working experience at institutions such as the Yale University library and Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The primary focus of Alexa’s internship has been to work alongside me in building eight new karibari, or drying boards, for the studio. These boards are an essential component of every East Asian painting conservation and mounting studio. They consist of a wooden lattice undercore and feature up to 11 layers of handmade paper pasted in specific configurations on either side to provide a sturdy and breathable, yet lightweight surface for stretch drying and flattening artworks during treatment. It is a time consuming and physically demanding task, and I am grateful to have Alexa’s assistance! Building the boards is also excellent training in the use of brushes and knives, different thicknesses of paste, and the preparation of various types of handmade paper. She is also helping me process an important series of artworks gifted to SAM at the bequest of longtime benefactor, the late Frank Bayley III, as well as designing  new display apparatus for upcoming gallery rotations at the museum.

My hope is that the Tateuchi Conservation Center will serve as a training resource for future conservators of Asian art, as coursework in East Asian painting conservation is not an area of study offered in North American or European graduate conservation programs. Training in this field is still largely apprenticeship-based, taking place in private studios across Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea. As a result of their unusual formats, Asian paintings require dexterity, specialized tools, refined aesthetic sensibilities, and linguistic, cultural, and historical knowledge. In the US, the field tends to attract students with a background or interest in paper conservation. These include so-called pre-program students (those seeking admittance to North American conservation programs) or recent graduates from these same programs. Occasionally, students with academic or practical training from Asia are considered as well. 

LH: This fall, SAM will launch Up Close with Conservators, a members-only lecture series offering an in-depth look at the conservation work taking place at the museum. For the inaugural lecture, you’ll be in conversation with SAM’s Jane Lang Davis Chief Conservator Nick Dorman. What can SAM members expect to hear in your discussion with Nick?

TU: Up Close with Conservators is an exciting opportunity to highlight the individuals who make up SAM’s conservation team and to share the details of our work with the public. We chose to title the series “Up Close” because much of our work begins with a close examination of the objects. We look forward to educating members on the works of art in our care, sharing our discoveries, explaining how we assist the museum’s curators in interpreting the artistic intent of each artwork’s creator, and articulating how best to handle, store, and preserve art for future generations. 

In our lecture, Nick and I will discuss the museum’s long journey to establish the Tateuchi Conservation Center at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and what the role of this new resource will be for the understanding and preservation of the important East Asian collections in the West Coast region. I will also be giving a brief overview of the kind of work that will take place in the studio, and what conservation of East Asian paintings looks like. It will be my first opportunity to speak to SAM’s members and is sure to be a engaging conversation.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Finding Where I Belong: Emerging Arts Leader Brie Silva Reflects

When I first applied to SAM as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern, I felt lost. Having moved here from California just a few years before, I felt lost in Seattle and lost as a recent graduate of the University of Washington’s Certificate Program in Museum Studies trying to figure out how to navigate the job market in this new world affected by COVID-19. I needed a way to break back into the museum scene after its brief lapse following museum closures, and in doing so I wanted to experience a new field as I explored Seattle’s arts scene for the first time.

I saw SAM’s internship posting while scouring museum websites and online job boards, and was intrigued by how this opportunity stressed the importance of achieving a thorough understanding of the many roles available within a museum setting and how they all connect. I had never previously worked in a larger museum setting—most of my experience in San Francisco had been with organizations made up to fifteen people—and was excited to learn how a museum of much larger size functioned on a daily basis.

In applying for an Emerging Arts Leader internship at SAM, I wasn’t sure which department I would be best suited for. I wanted to experience a part of museums I had not yet before, and was aided by those I interviewed with on which department that may be. Eventually, we landed on the Development team. This department is composed of several different roles that all aim to bring in additional revenue and maintain funding. I worked most closely with Sarah Michael, SAM Director of Institutional Giving.

In the galleries I had previously worked in, the Development team was be made up of one or two individuals who oversaw all donor, sponsor, and member relationships. But in an organization as large as SAM where the collection, space, and scope of everything is nearly quadrupled, ‘institutional giving’ has an entirely different meaning.

In addition to the work I was doing as part of the Development team—prospecting new potential corporate members, contemporary art funders, and other exhibition or event specific sponsors; creating sponsor reports to be sent out to already existing partners of the museum; working in Tessitura and Raiser’s Edge and learning how to navigate other related sites and programs—my internship included a few other elements that provided the well-rounded experience I was originally searching for. I had the opportunity to meet with, and interview, many amazing staff members occupying a variety of roles across multiple departments within the museum—some of which I had never even considered pursuing. Interns were also tasked with giving a gallery presentation towards the end of our 11 week program. For this project, I picked two ceramic works on view in Pacific Species to research and study, then connected museum staff to help me structure a comprehensive 20–30 minute long presentation in the galleries.

Through this variety of separate tasks and opportunities, I felt connected to the museum as a whole and the many teams that work together to make it function. I was introduced to so many people who had experienced that same overwhelming feeling of finding your place in the arts world, whether they had years’ worth of experience or not, and learned of many new positions that weren’t covered in the many articles, papers, and textbooks I had read in school.

There were times during my internship that I still felt a little lost—wondering what I was going to do after it was finished and how I was going to make the transition from part time internship to full time employment—but I no longer felt alone. I had others with me who knew exactly what I was going through because they had been there too. Now, my uncertainty no longer feels scary, it feels exciting.

This experience has reawakened my love for museums and reminded me why I decided to pursue a career in this industry. As I move forward in my career, I will remember my time at SAM fondly as the experience that got me back on track to an exciting future in museums. I am incredibly thankful to SAM for this opportunity and everyone that I met along the way.

– Brie Silva, SAM Emerging Arts Leader in Development

Photos: Chloe Collyer.

The Importance of Preventative Care: Emerging Arts Leader Jennifer Beetem Reflects

Over the decade between my very first lab tour at the Seattle Art Museum and my SAM Emerging Arts Leader Internship in Conservation, I learned that the scope within which conservators work is much larger than the lab. My earlier internships took place in private practice home studios, on-site projects, and archaeological fieldwork. During my EAL internship, I did numerous preventive conservation projects in collections spaces, shared workspaces, and the galleries. As SAM’s first IAIA Collections Care Intern, I am excited to share about the IAIA and the projects I’ve worked on! 

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is an intertribal college in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a non-Native conservator whose work intersects with collected Indigenous objects, I enrolled in its museum studies online certificate program to study museum history and contemporary practices. Over the past two years, I participated in class discussions and learned from stellar professors on the best practices in navigating collections and curatorial work. This last semester I successfully hustled for an in-person internship for credit with SAM Senior Collections Care Manager Marta Pinto-Llorca.

Preventive conservation is like preventive medicine: appropriate and timely care intended to slow deterioration. This includes monitoring objects’ condition, using safe storage and display materials, managing indoor climates, emergency planning, surface cleaning, and pest management. Preventive care review included shadowing SAM Collections Care Associate Vaughn Meekins on his weekly gallery cleaning rounds. 

Here is a glimpse of the preventive care that was completed for Marie Watt’s sculpture Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations. Before installation in American Art: The Stories We Carry, conservation workers treated the wool blankets to prevent introducing invisible pest activity into the gallery. Vaughn Meekins, SAM Collections Technician Ignacio Lopez, and I spent many hours non-contact vacuuming both sides of each blanket, refolding, then sealing batches in plastic to freeze for a week. 

On my days at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, I supported periodic gallery rotations of scroll paintings and textiles. Marta trained me to handle boxed scrolls and to safely unbox, unroll, roll, and box Japanese hanging scrolls. SAM Senior East Asian Paintings Conservator Tanya Uyeda taught me specific terms related to Japanese scroll paintings which added to my vocabulary for condition reporting paper and textiles. 

Over many downtown work sessions, I condition mapped William Cordova’s massive mixed-media assemblage Untitled (Cosmos). Cordova intentionally applied dust, unstable collage adhesives, and non-archival tape in his artwork, so it was important to create a detailed condition map before going on view later this year. To mitigate risks during installation and display, I gently tested delaminating collage papers with an air puffer and collected runaway pieces in labeled bags.

Working with invisible disabilities is tough and I’m grateful to my community for sharing collective ambition to build a culture of caregiving: for people and for art. Thank you to SAM for giving me the space to cook up my first public education session! For my EAL intern gallery talk, I introduced the subject of preventive conservation to colleagues and visitors alike, and pantomimed how to dust frames, objects, and casework. I loved fielding questions and teaching skills people can use to care for art in their own homes!

– Jennifer Beetem, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Conservation

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad & Marta Pinto-Llorca.

Leaving My Mark on Art: Emerging Arts Leader Alexa Smith Reflects

Art has always been a passion of mine. I have been drawing and painting since I was a kid, and as I grew up, I knew art needed to be an ever-present aspect of my life, no matter the capacity. I have had some significant figures that helped me come to that conclusion: teachers, mentors, and so many more. With their influence, I came to recognize my path in life: to help people realize their own love of art, just as others did for me. The journey to this point was not without its difficulties, perhaps even a bit tumultuous. Yet, it’s what led me to teaching art classes and, most importantly, my internship here at the Seattle Art Museum.

Being at SAM has been a dream. I truly never expected to be here. During the application and interview process, I admittedly was not the most confident. Had I done enough to deserve to be here? But, I knew if I spoke to my passions, I had a chance. Teaching has always been my way of helping to foster creativity and artistic passion in kids at developmental ages, but being at SAM has allowed me to contribute to something bigger. I have had the opportunity to be a part of an institution dedicated to connecting art with the public and to be a part of a curatorial department that informs, educates, and inspires people through all facets of art—I couldn’t imagine a better place to be!

Seeing all that goes into what makes a museum function successfully has been an education in and of itself. It has been amazing to see the cross-departmental collaboration at work, and to be a part of it. To have conversations with staff across departments and learn more about their contributions to the museum has been one of my favorite parts of this experience thus far. In particular, my conversations with the education, interpretation, and public engagement teams have been so impactful, especially with my mentor. From him, I’ve been able to learn more about what each team is doing in the realms of accessibility and further connecting the public to the work that is displayed in the museum. I have even been given the opportunity to contribute research and content to a few artworks at the Seattle Asian Art Museum and build upon the educational materials already available for them. That kind of experience—to have my contributions be a part of the museum in a permanent capacity—is what I want to continue to do, to leave my mark.

Thankfully, the work that I have done within the curatorial department has given me that chance. I have worked on presentations for exhibition proposals, formatted labels for objects, researched artists for interviews and future exhibitions, imagined my own exhibition, and developed an in-gallery presentation. But, one of the most rewarding parts of this experience has been connecting my conceptual exhibition with the development of my in-gallery presentation because of how personal it became for me. 

When I was assigned to curate a potential exhibition featuring ten items from SAM’s collection, I wanted to use this chance to explore my heritage and learn more about the available Filipino art and artifacts. I am incredibly proud of my culture, and it has always been disappointing to see how Filipino art and culture is rarely showcased or discussed in the greater context of Asian culture and history, even though it is incredibly rich and multi-faceted. Even in higher education, where I’ve taken classes dedicated to the history of Asian art and culture, the curriculum usually centers on China, Japan, Korea, and India. And I can imagine most people think of those countries, as well, when they think about Asian culture in general. 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much variety or depth in the artworks from the Philippines at SAM, but there was one set of figures that stood out among the rest: the bulul figures from the Ifugao people of Northern Luzon. Researching these objects provided me with a new direction to take my project. I decided to focus on Indigenous cultures and spirituality throughout the islands in the Pacific. After learning more about the history of the bulul and the Ifugao, it was clear that prehistoric and indigenous Filipino cultures and traditions were more akin to other Oceanic and Austronesian Indigenous cultures found in regions like Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia, with their spiritual beliefs centered on honoring the earth and ancestral relationships. That belief system has been appointed the term animism by western cultures and it is the perspective in which all things—animate and inanimate objects, places, and creatures—possess a distinct spiritual essence. 

With these findings, my conceptual exhibition focusing on the important bonds between visual traditions and spiritual beliefs in Indigenous cultures across islands in the Pacific took shape. In my gallery presentation, I wanted to spotlight the bulul figures, the Indigenous culture of the Ifugao people, and its similarity to the cultures of other Pacific Islands, all a divergence from the more discussed modern history of the Philippines (i.e., Spanish colonization, American occupation, and Philippine independence). All I wanted was to share with people the ways that Filipino culture is special, and now I can. 

I cannot begin to describe how excited I am to share the research I’ve done so far. It has been such a fulfilling experience to be able to learn more about the history of my culture in the context of art, and being here at SAM has given me the opportunity and the resources to do just that. I am extremely grateful for what this internship has provided me in terms of exploring my passions and building upon what I have already learned. I feel as though I have just scratched the surface as to what I can accomplish here at SAM and I am itching to see the contributions I can make at SAM in the near future. 

I’d like to thank SAM Intern Programs Coordinator Samuel Howes for helping me adjust and transition into this internship; to SAM Museum Educator for Digital Learning Ramzy Lakos, for being such an amazing mentor and for our stimulating conversations that I always looked forward to; and, of course, to SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz—I couldn’t have asked for a better supervisor and mentor.

– Alexa Smith, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Curation

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Lessons of the Past: Kari Karsten on Curating SAM’s American Art Galleries

Artworks of the past never cease to offer new lessons, insights, and interpretations.

In this video created as part of the two-year reinstallation of SAM’s American art galleries, SAM Emerging Museum Professional of American Art and member of the Seneca nation Kari Karsten discusses her research into Spokane-born artist Kenneth Callahan’s The Accident, and the enduring questions artworks such as these can raise, even over 75 years after their creation.

Read more about Kari’s contributions to SAM while serving as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern in this reflection she wrote after completing her year-long thesis for the University of Washington Museology masters program and opening Indigenous Matrix: Northwest Women Printmakers last fall.

Visit SAM today to experience all American Art: The Stories We Carry has to offer and see Callahan’s painting for yourself.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: L. Fried.

Rosa Sittig-Bell: An Emerging Arts Leader’s Look at SAM

Growing up in Seattle, I spent many years skipping school on the first Thursday of every month to wander the ever-changing exhibitions at SAM, picking out my favorite paintings and developing a personal relationship with them. I always knew that I wanted to be a part of creating the magic that happens when you enter a museum and experience the way one artwork can transform your perspective on the world and yourself. Through my internship at the museum, I was able to get closer to recognizable and historic artworks—many of which I have been enamored with for years—than I had ever imagined I would, as well as getting to intimately investigate, work with, and develop new relationships to new pieces in SAM’s collection. 

Like a child being pulled away from a candy shop, as my Emerging Arts Leader Internship at SAM concludes, I want to look back on how transformative and fascinating working with the conservation team has been as I focused on conservation projects at the Olympic Sculpture Park and on objects in the museum’s reinstallation of its American art galleries, which debuted this October.

In the ever-increasing heat of Seattle’s newfound summer, I spent days running around the Olympic Sculpture Park with Senior Objects Conservator Elizabeth Brown as we treated the various sculptures that inhabit SAM’s outdoor location. This work ranged from re-waxing Louise Bourgeois’ Father and Son, to painting Alexander Calder’s The Eagle, to treating George Rickey’s kinetic sculpture Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III. I was struck by the public’s fascination with our process, stopping on their strolls with their Australian Shepherds to inquire about what we were doing. I would stop—blow torch and wax in hand—and explain these routine art treatments. These interactions made clear to me that the public is invested in the art around them, and that this work contributes to dialogues on accessible art. 

The conversation around what it means to work in conservation tends to be slim outside of the museum sphere, and I believe it’s a majorly overlooked aspect of the processes artworks go through before they are sent across the world to various museums, acquired from collectors, or have been sitting on display for months. How do we interact with artworks in a way that will allow them to be experienced in the future? Conservation is a field that combines investigation in so many different directions: the hand-skills needed to replicate the movements of practicing artists, the chemistry knowledge that informs how to interact with various materials, and the knowledge of art history that is needed to investigate the unique mechanisms of every artwork. My understanding of how multifaceted conservation is has grown immensely during my time here at SAM. 

Working at SAM has also revealed to me how museums and other art institutions can work toward greater equity. As part of my internship, I attended a few sessions of the American art project’s advisory circle, a group of 11 members of the community who advised on the reinstallation. These sessions were eye-opening. I was able to see and be a part of how SAM is working to eliminate an echo chamber of only museum staff in reflecting how communities would like to be represented themselves in the galleries. 

I will look back longingly on my experience, wishing I could use the XRF machine (essentially a handheld X-ray) one more time or attempt to clean a 19th-century elevator screen using a CO2 gun with Objects Conservator Geneva Griswold and fellow conservation intern Caitlyn Fong again. I will forever cherish being able to work so closely with objects from around the world. Becoming so personal with the art that I grew up visiting in the museum and investigating it on a whole new, and sometimes molecular level, has been one of the greatest learning experiences I could have imagined.

In concluding my internship, I look forward to seeking out more opportunities in the conservation field and to make sure that the art that touches us can be seen for years to come.

– Rosa Sittig-Bell, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Conservation

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Evolving Art, Analog’s Return, and a New Artemisia

SAM News

“How Seattle Art Museum is working to make its American art galleries more inclusive”: The Seattle Times’ Jerald Pierce on American Art: The Stories We Carry. He spoke with SAM curators and several collaborators on the project to reimagine our American art galleries.

“As SAM looks ahead at the future of its newly redone galleries, Papanikolas said she hopes this will slow patrons down as they go through, taking in the historical works alongside the contemporary and finding new personal meaning in the art. Both Papanikolas and Brotherton said they know there are still moments in history that haven’t been highlighted in this particular version of the installation, and artists who aren’t yet in their collection, but they’re excited about the flexibility and nimbleness of these galleries and their ability to respond to an evolving definition of ‘American art.’”

“What is America? Who is American? These are the questions that SAM strives to answer by including Asian, Latinx, Black, and Indigenous works in what was previously a series of rooms dominated by white male artists.” Kai Curry for Northwest Asian Weekly on the revamped American art galleries at SAM.

The Seattle Times also highlights “5 exhibitions to see during Native American Heritage Month,” including Indigenous Matrix: Northwest Women Printmakers at SAM. Curated by Kari Karsten and featuring works by Francis Dick, Susan Point, and more, it’s on view at SAM through December 11.

Local News

“Molly Vaughan’s After Boucher Brings Rococo to the Frye”: SAM’s 2017 Betty Bowen Award winner Vaughan recounts the process of her latest work, on view on the façade of the Frye Art Museum.

Yoona Lee for South Seattle Emerald on the work of attorney-turned artist Zahyr Lauren.

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on the Northwest’s resurgence of interest in analog photography.

“But, as [Panda Labs owner Jessica] Fleenor and others proclaim under Instagram and TikTok posts featuring analog photography: #FilmIsNotDead. ‘Film is still very much alive,’ Fleenor says. And perhaps surprisingly, the comeback is in large part driven by a generation of ‘digital natives’ who developed a love for film photography and classic film cameras during the pandemic.”

Inter/National News

Jasmine Liu for Hyperallergic on the first official public statue of Emmett Till, just unveiled in Greenwood, Mississippi.

ARTnews’ Tessa Soloman reports from a talk held at the Islamic Museum of Art in Doha that invited four museum directors to tackle questions about museums and social responsibility.

Via Artnet’s Sarah Cascone: “A Painting Nearly Destroyed in the Beirut Blast of 2020 Has Been Identified as a Long-Lost Artemisia Gentileschi—and Is Now Undergoing Restoration.”

“‘This painting is definitely by Artemisia,’ Davide Gasparotto, the Getty Museum’s senior curator of paintings, who arranged for the work’s restoration and loan, told the New York Times. ‘It’s a very powerful, convincing painting—one of her most ambitious in terms of size and the complexity of the figures.’”

And Finally

It’s Halloween; it’s KXVO Pumpkin Dance time.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

What Is Possible: Emerging Arts Leader Intern Lena Ishel Rodriguez Reflects

The first time I came to the Seattle Art Museum was in 2020. I was just starting my Master’s program at the University of Washington and I was missing home more than ever before. The first time I walked through Cosmic Beings in Mesoamerican and Andean Art, I was looking for home. That searching is what guided me to apply for the Emerging Arts Leader Internship—I wanted to help to create a bit of home for myself and other Latin Americans when they visit the Seattle Art Museum. 

From the very start of my internship, I knew I wanted to bring contemporary art and music into the space to reinvigorate the gallery. Ancient art often feels far away from contemporary life, particularly for those from a diverse community that has lived through several colonizations, displacements, and major transformations.

One of the biggest questions I had in starting this internship was scale—how much could I reasonably do over two months? Having worked in museums and non-profits now for over 7 years I know how important this question is. I had and continue to have a lot of ideas for the space, but I am very conscious of being one person that can only do so much. The initial part of my internship was spent getting to know the Seattle Art Museum and dreaming up what can be done, what has been done, and what is possible.

Eventually, and with a lot of help from my supervisors Pam McClusky, Barbara Brotherton, and Ramzy Lakos, we scaled my project to focus on one artwork in Cosmic Beings in Mesoamerican and Andean Art. I chose a Mayan work, Relief Panels (Door Reveals) (ca. AD 550-950), because it is positioned at the center of the exhibition. Originally being a lintel (a horizontal support in a doorway), it would have been one of the first artworks someone would have seen when entering a palace or temple. Around this one work, I developed a smartphone tour, a verbal description, an in-gallery presentation, a new wall label, and educational resources for the piece. It was important to me to create and explore a variety of different ways for visitors and staff and to connect with the work and show how ancient artworks can be activated.

An important part of developing this interpretive content for Relief Panels (Door Reveals) was consulting with other experts. Mary Miller, Meghan Rubenstein, and Virginia Miller were invaluable in the help and enthusiasm they provided. For the smartphone tour’s music, I brought in Juan Francisco Cristobal, my friend, former colleague, and Q’anjob’al Maya UCLA Ethnomusicology doctoral candidate. I also selected two paintings from the Arte Maya Tz’utuhil collection, available online as part of the Latin American Cultural Center’s Maya Spirituality: Indigenous Paintings 1957–2020 exhibition.

Another key part of my research was conducting an expansive review of work in the Northern Maya area during the Late Classic Period in topics varying from architecture to ethnobotany. There were a lot of moving parts in this project and learning how to balance everything was an interesting challenge that I would not have been able to do without the support of SAM staff. 

The opportunity to engage with an artwork that is a part of my heritage has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my internship. Hope, pride, identity, memory, and healing are just a few words that come up for me; they are integral ideas that underlie everything I created. I hope that I made my community and family proud, and that the content I developed for Relief Panels (Door Reveals) can serve as a bridge to inspire all of SAM’s visitors. I hope everyone visits Cosmic Beings and spends time with its art, engages with the smartphone tour, and considers how the art connects to the thriving Latin American community today.

– Lena Ishel Rodriguez, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Photo: Natali Wiseman.

Object of the Week: Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III

As the wind picks up at the Olympic Sculpture Park, American artist George Rickey’s Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III (1973) uses the natural elements to transform from a still sculpture to a mesmerizing experiment in movement, allowing us to consider how that movement can in turn create its own forms. 

Rickey’s kinetic sculptures come from an amalgamation of life experiences and technical skills. He was born on June 6, 1907 in South Bend, Indiana; his father was an engineer, setting the stage for the technical foundation that would become a pertinent aspect of his future work. Rickey went on to temporarily reject engineering to study history and eventually art, becoming a history teacher and painter. During and after World War II, he was majorly influenced by the work of Alexander Calder, Naum Gabo, and David Smith among others. 

During the 1970s, Rickey began using flat planes in his kinetic sculptures, burnishing the stainless steel planes in order to create luminosity. He rejected motorized mechanics; instead the planes are able to create motion through the combination of weight, design, and ball bearings inside of the bearing housing. The laws of physics and the unpredictability of the natural world are his tools of choice.

Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III is inspected and treated annually by SAM’s conservation department to ensure that Rickey’s vision remains in motion at the sculpture park. In 2022, the sculpture was cleaned, examined for stability, spot treated to maintain an even and uncorroded exterior, and the access panels were opened up to inspect the stability of the rods and bearings. The sculptures at the Olympic Sculpture Park, including Rickey’s, require constant care to withstand weather, constant movement, and exposure to the Puget Sound’s salty water. 

As a part of my Emerging Arts Leader Internship in conservation, I am working alongside SAM conservators to examine, record, and treat a number of SAM collection works, focusing specifically on the outdoor sculptures in the Olympic Sculpture Park. It is very special to have the opportunity to work directly with sculptures that I have spent years studying or admiring. I’m glad to have contributed directly to the preservation and future enjoyment of modern and contemporary public art.

– Rosa Sittig-Bell, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern


1 George Rickey Foundation, “Glossary of Technical Terms,” https://www.georgerickey.org/art/glossary-of-terms

2 Hayden Herrera, “George Rickey,” in George Rickey in South Bend (South Bend: The Snite Museum of Art University of Notre Dame, 1985) 11–17.

3 Vero Beach Museum of Art, George Rickey Kinetic Sculpture: A Retrospective (Vero Beach: The University of Washington Press, 2007).

Image: Two Plane Vertical Horizontal Variation III, 1973, George Rickey, stainless steel, 97 x 68 x 68 in. Gift of Martin Z. Margulies, 2007.263 © Estate of George Rickey/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Object of the Week: Indian Warrior

Alexander Phimister Proctor was an American artist renowned for his bronze sculptures depicting the western frontier. Toward the end of 1896, he received the prestigious Rinehart Scholarship to practice in Paris on a three year contract. The scholarship committee commissioned Indian Warrior for the Rinehart Prix de Paris Collection. 

In the fall of 1895, Proctor traveled to Glacier National Park in Northwestern Montana and stayed at a Blackfeet reservation where he studied two Blackfeet men. He started the cast for Indian Warrior there, and later finished it in New York and Paris. The model for the figure was a man named Weasel Head, while the horse was owned by a mutual colleague named Dixon. A New York lawyer, Dixon allowed Proctor to borrow the horse for the piece.

Proctor brought the lessons he learned in Paris to his practice of American naturalism. In Paris, he absorbed the Beaux-Arts style which upheld classicism in sculpture. As for the naturalistic element, he was interested in depicting realistic scenes from the American West. In this piece, the figure sits calmly above a trotting horse in action. Where they are going is beyond what the viewer knows. Yet, the figure’s spear draws itself parallel to the nape of the horse in a way that honors the spiritual connection of the two main subjects. Personal interdependence lies in the body language of them both: proud and secure.

Proctor’s appreciation of Native American culture is a layer of protection provided to historically white Western artists. Proctor’s privilege lies in his freedom to determine Native Americans worthy enough to sculpt. The concept of the Noble Savage stems from this privilege and calls this artwork into question. Indian Warrior does not find a hold in contemporary Native American representation-nor does it attempt to. It functions as Proctor’s own interpretation of Natives existing within their culture and doesn’t leave room for further understanding.

Folding back these layers does not detract from Proctor’s artistic excellence. He was a master of his craft. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a fellow acclaimed American sculptor and friend to Proctor, knew this. Theodore Roosevelt, a continued supporter and avid commissioner of Proctor’s work, expected it. Yet, this piece is only poignant because of its subject matter. The way in which the horse and Weasel Head are both stopped in a moment in time. Admiration can fill the subsequent space. But admiration is nothing without reflection. And reflection is nothing without the impulse for more. To follow this piece to where they are going.

The responsibility of responding to Native American monuments lies with every person that views Indian Warrior. These snapshots of moments in time are a careful reminder of what it means to be valiant beyond the circumstance. Proctor’s technical excellence in Indian Warrior is made possible by who he is representing. This work is emotive and communicative because of the history it depicts. It is not Proctor’s touch that carries this work, but the themes that it reflects on Native Americans being represented by white mainstream artists. If there are accolades to be given to this work, its honor should be in the identity of Weasel Head, and the legacy of Native American heritage. Where is the horse taking Weasel Head? Or where is Weasel Head taking the horse? Beyond the space of the Seattle Art Museum, to the future in sight, for all to see.

– Moe’Neyah Holland, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Images: Chloe Collyer.

My Favorite Things: Ramzy Lakos on Amerocco

“As an American Egyptian, born and raised in the Middle-East, living in the US, I could see myself reflected in this piece, which is unique for me, because my identity mostly exists in-between spaces.”

– Ramzy Lakos, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Under the unique circumstances of SAM’s closure, our amazing Emerging Arts Leader Intern, Ramzy Lakos adapted the culminating tour of his internship into a video! Go inside Aaron Fowler: Into Existence with Ramzy as he shares his personal approach to understanding and connecting with the large-scale work, “Amerocco.” The exhibition is slated to be on view through October 25, 2020, and we hope you will have a chance to experience it in person once SAM can reopen.

Aaron Fowler’s larger-than-life works are at once paintings, sculptures, and installations. They are made from everyday discarded items and materials sourced from the artist’s local surroundings in Los Angeles and St. Louis, among other places. Items include cotton balls, security gates, afro wigs, hair weaves, broken mirrors, djellabas, sand, broken-down movie sets, found car parts, ropes, lights, and much more.

Emerging Arts Leader Internships at SAM grew out of SAM’s equity goal and became a paid 10-week position at the museum designed to provide emerging arts leaders from diverse backgrounds with an in-depth understanding of SAM’s operations, programming and audiences.

The Kimerly Rorschach Fund for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In September 2019, Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, retired after seven years of leading the institution and an illustrious 25-year career in the arts. When Rorschach joined SAM in November 2012, she set her sights on creating a schedule of exhibitions and programs for the museum’s three locations that was compelling and timely and that would resonate with a rapidly growing and diversifying Seattle community. 

During her tenure, equity and inclusion also became top priorities. As part of a commitment to building racial equity, addressing institutional racism, and bringing forth real change, she led the museum’s participation in Turning Commitment into Action, a cohort led and funded by the Office of Arts & Culture in partnership with Office for Civil Rights in 2015. After taking part in this important cohort, SAM established a staff leadership team dedicated to these efforts, and hired Priya Frank as Associate Director for Community Programs in the museum’s Education department and also appointed her the founding chair of the newly established Equity Team.

Beginning in 2016, SAM established racial equity training for the staff, volunteers, docent corps, and Board of Trustees. The museum also created special exhibition advisory committees to ensure that diverse community voices are part of the exhibition, programming, and marketing planning processes. Equity was added to the museum’s official values statement and integrated into the institution’s strategic plan, which guides all departments’ goals. The Emerging Arts Leader internship was also established, a paid internship aimed at candidates who are underrepresented in the museum field. These are just some of the ongoing efforts that Rorschach led the museum in pursuing.

In honor of Rorschach’s extraordinary vision in guiding the museum’s dedication to equity work, the SAM Board of Trustees, along with friends of Rorschach, have created an endowment that establishes permanent funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at SAM. The Kimerly Rorschach Fund for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion helps ensure that these efforts will continue at the museum and paves the way for SAM to be a leader in this crucial area of the arts.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Scott Areman

Lauren Farris: Emerging Arts Leader Intern Look at SAM

“Vulnerability” has been a bit of a buzz word ever since Brené Brown’s TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.” Having watched Brené’s TED Talk and read one of her books, I value vulnerability a lot, but being vulnerable myself can still feel fairly nerve-wracking. So when the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern and I were asked to lead a My Favorite Things Tour, little did I know that the next 10 weeks would also include a road trip down vulnerability lane. 

When I first heard about the tour, I thought this tour would remain in the realm of theoretical, academic concepts. To be fair, a large part of the process involved researching the history behind each piece, utilizing resources from SAM’s libraries (thanks, Traci, Jordyn, and Yueh-Lin!), and meeting with curators (thanks, Pam and Chiyo!). But along with the historical research, our mentors and colleagues, Rachel, Seohee, David, and Priya (thank you all!), encouraged us to delve vulnerably into our stories and weave them into each piece. 

Because of this, I began asking myself some questions about my story, including being mixed race. For a while, I’ve been nervous about my voice because being mixed race often feels like a grey area between two distinct points of view and voices in society. But as I worked on the tour, each of our mentors and countless people shared their time, insight, stories, and vulnerability to help me process, ask deeper questions, and craft the content of the tour. Without them, the tour and this blog post would look entirely different. 

Not to mention, I’ll always cherish the times the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern, Cat, and I practiced nearly 50 versions of our ever-evolving tour with each other. Because our tours delved into more personal topics, we became each other’s support and cheerleader through a lot of ups and a few downs. Together, we also arranged informational interviews with staff across many departments, assisted at events like SAM Remix, DragonFest, and Summer Institute for Educators, and attended department and equity team meetings. I learned so much from working with Cat (miss you!) and love the ways in which SAM values and integrates collaboration. 

Throughout this entire internship, I’ve learned so much about museums, equity work within museums, and about myself. The interdisciplinary focus provided the opportunity to learn about many of the departments that comprise SAM. All throughout and above the galleries, it’s inspiring to see how many dedicated individuals play a role – from fundraising to checking coats to communicating with the press to leading student tours—to make SAM the museum that it is. 

I also learned a lot about equity work in museums that I didn’t know before. I’ve realized that it’s not enough to know some terms or read some papers or books, but it takes the vulnerability to ask myself the same questions within these papers. And it takes the bravery to answer these questions honestly. 

SAM gave me a safe space to ask questions and come from a posture of growth and progression rather than perfection. More than ever, I’ve learned how crucial and empowering it is to connect with people who share both similar and different experiences. The ways that SAM strives for equity within education, programming, exhibitions, staff, and every part of SAM is inspiring. SAM is opening up dialogue, asking themselves, and others, critical questions, and aiming to lead and learn with each step towards furthering inclusivity and equity. SAM taught me that it takes vulnerability and guts to genuinely look at equity within ourselves in order to implement equity institutionally and beyond.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who made this internship so special. And guess what? I’m so grateful, honored, and thrilled to continue on with SAM’s amazing Development Team as a Campaign Assistant! See you around!

– Lauren Farris, SAM Campaign Assistant & 2019 Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Cat Vallejo: Emerging Arts Leader Look at SAM

Very early on in my role as one of SAM’s Emerging Arts Leader Interns, our mentor, David Rue, asked us to write down three personal or professional goals we wished to achieve during our time here at SAM. To be completely honest, I was all over the place during the first few weeks, as I was struggling to find where I fit into the museum to be a successful intern. Despite feeling this way, the one thing that I was certain and hopeful for was to make SAM a place I happily call home: be a part of SAM and SAM be a part me.

As a student at the University of Washington Bothell, being my whole self and feeling at home is what truly made me happier than I ever imagined. In order to feel that same happiness at SAM, I tried to be fully present by having a positive mind and heart. I reminded myself to be my bubbly and kind self and to be comfortable with the people around me. This was way easier said than done.

On top of feeling like a lost intern, I was already struggling with adjusting to a lifestyle that was the exact opposite of what I was used to. I wanted to be a big fish in a little pond that everyone looked up to for guidance. However, being in a new, urban city where nobody really knew me meant this wasn’t the case anymore. I felt lost between the Cat that grew up in California and the adult Cat that lives in Washington. Where would I go? Who am I supposed to be? With all these new changes and heavy feelings, I thought to myself, “I don’t how I’m going to achieve my goal or if I’m even going to get there. Good luck.”

Priya Frank and Seohee Kim are the two mentors I give all my gratitude to for guiding me through my struggles. Talking to them made me realize that I was still a tiny fish in a huge pond that needed to be willing to grow and learn from others. This was a reminder to be humble and to remember that learning and growing never stops, even when you think you’re at the top. Growing only starts when you are uncomfortable, yet willing to feel and embrace that discomfort with an open mind and heart to learn something new. Their kind words of wisdom touched my heart.

After this realization, I started to feel like I could reach my goal. The big project we had the opportunity to do was the My Favorite Things Tour. For this project, I researched different art pieces, connected them to real-life experiences, centered everything around a specific theme, and proudly presented my work to the public. Wow! I will always remember our first practice of walking around and talking about the different artworks we had in mind for our tours. I knew I was on the right track in connecting the art to my personal journeys, but there was much more research and practice that needed to be completed.

After this practice I was motivated to reach out to the curators to learn more about the different art pieces, which was exactly what I did. It was so inspiring getting to hear from and learn from the curators and see how passionate they are. I also learned more on my own by reading books about the artwork and artist. Most importantly, completing all the work would not even be half of what it was without my fellow colleague and friend Lauren Farris, the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern. Working closely with her gave us the space to learn from each other’s personal and professional experiences, all while sharing this internship together. I remember practicing our tours in the galleries, just talking through them while sitting down, and always changing our art pieces and stories every time we practiced. Being by each other’s side allowed us to be vulnerable and really push through to make these tours happen.

When the day finally came, we were there for each other to see all our hard work come to life. That is just so amazing to me because there were so many people and experiences collaborating to create something great. Swimming with the big fish was not so scary after all. As I said during my tour when I was talking about Childe Hassam’s Spring on West 78th Street, “from this painting and my experience with my SAM family, I learned that home is not a place, but a feeling.” Saying these words with my whole heart, showed me that I was able to reach my one and only goal, despite being so lost in everything else. This internship was more than I hoped for and now that it has come to a close I can truly say that I was a part of SAM and SAM will always be a part of me. SAM is a place I happily call home.

Cat Vallejo, SAM 2019 Emerging Arts Intern

Photos: Natali Wiseman

SAM Connects Culture to Emerging Arts Leaders

Read all about Trang Tran’s experience at SAM as our 2018 Emerging Arts Intern. The Emerging Arts Internship at SAM grew out of SAM’s equity goal and became a paid 10-week position at the museum designed to provide emerging arts leaders from diverse backgrounds with an in-depth understanding of SAM’s operations, programming and audiences. We’re searching for our next Emerging Arts Intern! Does this sound like you? Applications are due April 1!

When I was asked to write a wrap-up blog about my experiences as an Emerging Arts Leader intern at the Seattle Art Museum, I asked myself, “Jeez, where do I even begin?” There are so many experiences, memories, and relationships that I have built at this museum, a place I now consider a second home, that it’s hard to summarize my journey in a paragraph or two.

As I was walking toward the museum on my first day of the internship, the word “anxious” wouldn’t have entirely encapsulated my emotions. I was also thrilled, grateful, and honored to be working at one of the best art institutions on the West coast. My first week flew by as I met staff members who were inclusive, welcoming, supportive, and helpful as I tried to find my way around the maze of the administrative office. Over the next weeks, I began conducting informal interviews with staff members, working on projects with the curatorial, communication, and educational departments, and I ran around the museum trying to find meeting rooms but repeatedly ending up on the wrong floor (“M stands for Maloney”– David). I also toured the Olympic Sculpture Park (Thanks, Maggie!), made multiple trips to the galleries and library as I began research for my December My Favorite Things Tour, spiraled down the rabbit hole in art storage (Thanks, Carrie!), attempted to write a press release for an upcoming exhibition (Thanks, Rachel!), participated in many events hosted by the museum, and more!

One event I was especially honored to participate in was the Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodpur, India Community Opening Celebration. I had the opportunity to interact with the community by greeting them at the door and answering questions about the evening’s programs. Instead of running around the administrative office or staring at a computer screen, I was able to engage with the museum’s audience. It was amazing to witness the enthusiasm, anticipation, and joy radiating from everyone I met at the door. Even though I ended up losing my voice that night, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

I was also fortunate to spend the day with my little brother, Kevin, at the Diwali Family Festival. Diwali, or the “festival of lights,” is one of the most important celebrations in India where people celebrate the triumph of good over evil. The museum’s annual Diwali Family Festival included a vibrant fashion show, numerous art activities, dance performances, live music, and tours of the special exhibition, Peacock in the Desert, as well as tours of SAM’s permanent collections and installations. By attending this event, I hoped to show my brother that art is not just about color pigments on a white canvas on the wall or a sculpture encased in glass that you forget about as soon as you walk away. Art has the effect of bringing people together. People of different ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds come together to celebrate, learn about, and appreciate a culture. Art also has the power to encapsulate political struggles, social changes, cultural values, and art movements. These are the reasons why I love, and am passionate, about art. I hope that if I can help the youngest member of my family see how powerful art can be, maybe one day my parents, as well as the wider Asian-American community, will learn to accept and recognize the existence of the art world.

Throughout this 10-week interdisciplinary internship, I found myself learning about the numerous operations that keep the museum running on an everyday basis. Such operations range from researching artworks in the curatorial department to fundraising in the development department, from promotional strategies in the marketing department to writing press releases in the communication department, and from preserving artworks in the conservation department to engaging the public in the educational department. But if I were to selected one main lesson to take away after this internship, it would be that a museum is not just about the artworks in the gallery; it’s also about people coming together to successfully bring these artworks to the public. For an artwork to be displayed in the museum, for a sculpture to be standing in the gallery, or for an exhibition to be showcased for three months, it takes cooperation from every department in the museum. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has welcomed, accepted, supported, challenged, and encouraged me throughout this internship. Thank you for all the hard work that you are doing, not only for the world of art, but also for the public community.

– Trang Tran, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern 2018

Muse/News: Jeffrey Gibson’s layers, Viking surprises, and Baroque drama

SAM News

Like a Hammer, the solo exhibition of contemporary art star Jeffrey Gibson, opens at SAM in about three months! Learn more about his exciting artistic practice from OUT and Architects + Artisans, who both review his solo show This Is the Day, now on view at the Wellin Museum in New York State.

Launched in 2016, SAM’s Emerging Arts Leader Internship now boasts seven graduates—including two who are now full-time SAM employees. That’s pretty rad. Meet the current Emerging Arts Leader intern, Trang Tran!

Toronto’s Narcity offers “13 Fun Washington Date Ideas That Are Way More Fun Than You’d Think”—including the Seattle Art Museum.

Local News

The end of an era, indeed. City Arts announced that it is ceasing publication after 12 years. Brangien Davis of Crosscut explored what this means for arts coverage and for local artists.

In advance of her TEDxSeattle talk last Saturday, Molly Vaughan spoke with Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne about the continuing Project 42, “active accomplice creation,” and sharing her platform.

Jasmyne Keimig for The Stranger on The Vikings Begin at the Nordic Museum, whose moody galleries “capture the ethos of early Viking society”—including some surprises.

“Not only were women guardians of many aspects of spiritual life, and carriers of the concept of revenge, but there’s evidence they were also warriors, and were buried in high-status graves packed with weapons—a custom previously believed to have been only for men.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Kate Brown reports on Rijksmuseum’s upcoming exhibition that commemorates the 350th year of Rembrandt van Rijn‘s death. I just love the simple, all-you-need-to-say title: All the Rembrandts.

A few of SAM’s once-featured and still-favorite artists have been making news lately: Sondra Perry won the 2018 Nam June Paik Award, Kerry James Marshall was ranked number 2 on Art Review’s Power 100, and Mickalene Thomas is included on the OUT100 list.

Murder most Baroque? Artnet’s Javier Pes on a London show exploring violence in the work of 17th-century artist Jusepe de Ribera, including rumors that he murdered his rival (dang!).

“The single-venue show will be topical in London, which has seen a recent escalation in gang violence. There have been fatal stabbings in Camberwell and Peckham, two neighborhoods that are near Dulwich. Payne says that the violence in Ribera’s art is ‘not gratuitous.’”

And Finally

Making art out of rude cell phone disruptions.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Image: Like A Hammer, 2014, Jeffrey Gibson, Mississippi Band Choctaw/Cherokee, b. 1972, elk hide, glass beads, artificial sinew, wool blanket, metal studs, steel, found pinewood block, and fur, 56 × 24 × 11 in., Collection of Tracy Richelle High and Roman Johnson, courtesy of Marc Straus Gallery, New York, image courtesy of Jeffrey Gibson Studio and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California, photo: Peter Mauney.

Say Hi to SAM’s New Emerging Arts Leader: Trang Tran

SAM’s ongoing Emerging Arts Leader Internship continues this winter with Trang Tran, a senior at the University of Washington.

This paid internship is aimed at candidates who are underrepresented in the museum field. It’s an interdisciplinary internship that allows the intern to interact with diverse aspects of museum work and contribute their unique insights and perspectives. Members of SAM’s Equity Team, representing several departments at the museum, make up the hiring committee for this important internship that is just one way SAM is working to create points of entry into the museum field and work toward equity and inclusion within our own walls. Launched in 2016, the internship program now boasts seven graduates.

Trang started her internship in September and will be here through the end of 2018. Growing up, she was expected to pursue a STEM career and planned to study biology—until an introductory art history course changed the course of her life (art has a way of doing that). Graduating next June from UW, she’s now pursuing an art history degree—with a minor in microbiology! During her cross-disciplinary internship, she’ll explore all facets of the museum field and share her unique insights along the way. Says Trang, “I want to demonstrate to society—especially the Asian community—that every child deserves to have an equal opportunity to choose their career path. I want to become that change.”

Save the date for Thursday, December 6! Trang will lead a free My Favorite Things Tour in the galleries focusing on some of what she’s learned while contributing to SAM. You won’t want to miss it.

We asked Trang: What’s a work of art that challenged your perspective on life?

Trang: The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, which he painted on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City during the Renaissance era. The stylistic goals of the Renaissance era were rationality, balance, and unity. However, Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment was very dynamic, chaotic, and filled with ambiguity. Michelangelo challenged the norms of the Renaissance movement and as a result, he created one of the world’s greatest treasures. His refusal to conform to the norms of the current art movement encouraged me to pursue a career outside of the ones that children who grow up in Asian communities are generally expected to pursue. I want to demonstrate to society that I can become successful doing something I love instead of chasing a career that society labels as “successful.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Equity Team Outreach Taskforce Chair

Seohee Kim: Emerging Arts Leader Intern Look at SAM

During my first week as an Emerging Arts Leader Intern at Seattle Art Museum, I was told that by the last week of the internship this reflection post for the blog would be due. I remember thinking, “Oh, that sounds easy enough—just summarize what happened in a paragraph or two.” Clearly, I had no idea what was headed my way. The past week has been an endless cycle of drafting, writing, editing, only to draft again. (You know that feeling of when there’s so much you want to say, and say eloquently, that words and sentences are flying around your mind and you’re scrambling to make sense of them, but you actually just end up staring at the blinking text cursor for an hour? Yeah, that.)

When I reflect on the past 10 weeks of my internship, I imagine having one of those View-Masters (they’re still relevant, right?) and clicking through reels of moments at SAM. It starts with the welcoming faces of everyone I meet coming into view. Then, a whirlwind of back-to-back meetings; getting lost in the labyrinth of the administrative office; storage visits with Carrie (thank you, Carrie!); always pressing the wrong level in the elevator; researching objects; conducting informational interviews with staff; preparing for my My Favorite Things tour; taking part in Career Day, Seattle Art Fair, Summer at SAM, and Remix; and so much more. As if in slow motion, images of my last week include the nerve-wracking day of my tour and saying goodbye to everyone I had the privilege of working with.

I’m surprised how much I changed in this short time span. In the beginning, I thought I knew enough about diversity and equity work from courses at university and my past experiences that I was only focused on giving my perspectives rather than allowing myself to be vulnerable and molded by those far more experienced than I. Working closely with the equity team this past summer, I found myself constantly learning, practicing, and honing the use of an equity lens in my work. I experienced the behind-the-scenes of a museum and community working towards transparency and racial and social equity. I saw every meeting ask how to be inclusive, provide access, and advance equity. There was, and is, so much I don’t know, not only regarding the arts and museums, but also in becoming a better ally for community. Watching and working alongside these amazing and passionate individuals, I’ve come to reevaluate myself, my goals, and my passions on a weekly basis.

What resulted of this reevaluation was the “My Favorite Things” tour I had the privilege of leading (I still can’t believe I led a tour). To close off, I’d like to share a snippet from what I shared at the tour.

We tend to get easily distracted if an issue doesn’t directly affect us. From this internship and conducting research for this tour the past few weeks, I’ve realized again and again that privilege doesn’t always mean monetary wealth or status. It could be not having to worry about being seen as a threat walking in your own neighborhood late at night. It could be not feeling your heart pound every time you see words like ICE and DACA and UNDOCUMENTED in the headlines. It could be your close friends and family asking you if you’re doing alright and being able to genuinely answer that you’re well instead of brushing it off with an “I’m okay” when you really cried yourself to sleep at night because you’re supposed to have everything under control. Just because it doesn’t affect us directly, doesn’t mean it’s not there nor does it mean it’s less important. As a community, in order to work towards true equity, we have to embrace and endure all pains as if they are our own. We must face our worst selves and acknowledge our lacking. It’s going to be difficult; it will be uncomfortable…but I invite you to join me in this continuing journey of becoming more aware, becoming more responsible, and becoming more informed not only for ourselves but also for each other.”

To everyone I met and worked with this past summer, thank you so much for your continuous kindness, encouragement, and acceptance. I’ve never felt more welcome and cherished in a workplace setting than at SAM. And, thank you for all you do on a daily basis to work for and better our community.

–Seohee Kim, 2018 SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern

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