Interns at Work: Sarah Williamson ’18 The Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
“This has been the perfect internship for me because it bridges business and art history.”
What attracted you to this internship?
This has been the perfect internship for me because it bridges business and art history, my two majors. The Guggenheim Museum is part of the Guggenheim Foundation, a nonprofit that has museum locations around the world, from Bilbao to Abu Dhabi. I have had the opportunity to learn about finance in the art world beyond New York, and I’m surrounded by creative people who share my passion for art.
How did you learn about it? What gave you a leading edge?
Professor George Bent encouraged me to apply for internships at art museums in New York, and I sent in a last minute application to the Guggenheim on the day of the deadline. I really thought it was a shot in the dark, but with the help of the Career Development team, I was able to stand out and get the internship position.
Describe your daily duties.
Most of my projects are long-term and take several weeks to complete. For example, my first project involved compiling and categorizing the Guggenheim’s expenses for the IRS into a spreadsheet. That took me a little more than two weeks. The Guggenheim’s internship program is especially unique in the way that it fully immerses interns in every aspect of the Guggenheim office. I have been able to sit in on any meetings my supervisor attends, and she always includes me in daily office events.
What are some tasks/projects you’ve been working on?
Because the Guggenheim’s finance department is so small, I’m given a lot of responsibility, and I also have to be a self-starter. Most recently, I’ve been working on preparing the 2015 financial statements for the Guggenheim Foundation’s 403(b) Retirement Plan.
What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?
In most museums, the Human Resources department oversees internships; however, the Guggenheim’s Education department coordinates the internships. The Education department plans Friday trips for interns to different museums and organizations in the city to provide greater understanding and exposure to the art culture in New York. My Guggenheim card also gives me free access to any museum in New York, and I have really enjoyed exploring those.
What did you learn from living in the city where the internship was located?
New York is one of the busiest but best places to live, and I’ve had a blast spending my summer here. Being from Memphis, it has been exciting for me to live somewhere so different, like New York. My day is never really over at the end of each work day. There is always so much more to do in the city, such as visiting the High Line or trying out a new restaurant with friends. The opportunities and activities available in New York are endless, and it’s almost impossible to be bored. I’ve become much more independent and aware through living in New York, and on top of that, I’ve come to really love the city.
What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?
As a finance intern I have learned to really think outside the box. Compared to other departments at the Guggenheim, finance is very small. Some days might be really busy while others are very slow. On those slower days, I have had to think of productive tasks for myself without seeking direction from my supervisor. I have improved my ability to be a self-starter, and it has been one of the most valuable skills I’ve developed through my internship.
What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?
Apply for internships no matter what — even the ones that seem completely unrealistic! It can never hurt to send in an application, and you never know what you might get.
Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?
Being an intern at the Guggenheim Museum has made me even more interested in pursuing a career in the arts. Through my internship, I have gained greater insight on what working in the art world looks like. I now know that I want to be involved in the arts realm in some capacity.
Describe your experience in a single word.