The Columns

Interns at Work: Leigh Stauffer ’16 The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA

— by on September 5th, 2016

Leigh Stauffer '16

“The communication and teamwork skills I learned at The High have taught me how to be a contributing member to any organization, large or small.”

How did you learn about this internship?

After talking with my professors about potential art-focused summer opportunities, I learned that many museums offer summer internships. Growing up in Georgia, I had heard nothing but admiring praise about the High Museum of Art. And, after visiting the High’s website, I was also impressed by its strong sense of community involvement. So, deciding whether or not to apply seemed like a “no-brainer.”

What gave you the edge in landing this internship?

If I were to guess what helped me get the High internship, I would surmise it was an amalgamation of the “little things.” My resume demonstrated that I am passionate about the Arts by listing relevant classes. I described my previous work experiences in ways that showed I have developed general skills that would be useful for this internship setting. For my personal statement, I specifically indicated how an internship with the High would help me achieve my future professional goals. And, I was fortunate enough to have a letter of recommendation from a professor who knows me well as a student and had previous personal experience with the High.

Describe your daily duties.

I worked for the Development Department, so I did a lot of research on museum donors, past, present and potential. The High is a non-profit, private museum, so donations are among its primary sources of funds. I thought it was really cool how my department worked to make sure that the High wasn’t the only beneficiary of community members’ generosity. Donations, excluding anonymous donations, were used in a way that aligned with the donor’s art interests, so even the patron benefitted from giving money.

Aside from my work for the Membership and Development Department, the High made sure interns from every department got the opportunity to explore ever area of a museum. Every Wednesday, interns would meet for lunch with a different department to learn more about that department’s role in the museum. Every Friday, a curator would lead interns through a private tour of his or her respective art collection. And, as new exhibits arrived at the museum, all museum employees were invited to “Lunch and Learns” that were designed to educate and excite employees about the incoming shows.

What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?

I loved getting to meet everyone, including other interns, who worked for The High! Everyone was friendly, approachable, and happy to help with whatever he or she could. It also seemed like all employees genuinely enjoyed their jobs. As much fun as working for an art museum already is, I suspect a lot of their joy stemmed from being surrounded by a supportive team of congenial co-workers.

How did you like living in the city where the internship was located?

Living in Atlanta was amazing! Atlanta has a lot of other museums, such as the Georgia Aquarium, Civil and Human Rights Museum, and World of Coca-Cola, that were fun to peruse. The music scene was vibrant and diverse. One night you could be listening to various bands jamming out at Eddie’s Attic; the next evening you could be sitting on a blanket in Piedmont Park taking in all the melodies of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Atlanta also has a lot of hidden gems like the Krog Street Tunnel or the Beltline. There was so much to do, and I really enjoyed getting to explore the city’s many unique facets!

What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?

I learned a lot about organization while working for The High. It takes a team to accomplish something as vast as maintaining a fine arts museum that is constantly expanding its permanent collection and bustling with new exhibits (all while conserving precious works and keeping admission fees as low as possible). The communication and teamwork skills I learned at The High have taught me how to be a contributing member to any organization, large or small. Specifically, I am currently starting a Running Club here at Washington and Lee.

What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?

The High has something to offer people of multiple pursuits; you don’t have to be an Art History Major or a Studio Art minor to benefit from working for an art museum like The High. There are positions involving public relations, education, design, and advertising as well. Don’t let the art-centered title deter you from applying!

Will you pursue a career in this field after graduation?

I am definitely interested in pursuing a career in the arts!

Describe your experience in a single word.

Fulfilling.