Student Voices

Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective Internship Program

Smarthistory has collaborated with the AUC Art Collective to support Spelman College students during summer internships with Smarthistory.

“In 2018, the AUC Art Collective became the only undergraduate program in the nation built for students who are interested in diversifying the future of art museums and related industries. Operating within the largest consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the AUC Art Collective offers a BA in Art History and minors in Curatorial Studies and Art History to students at Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University.”

Summer 2023 AUC Internship: A reflection by Savannah Woodson

My name is Savannah Woodson and I am a sophomore Art History major from Spelman College! As an artist myself, I’m completely passionate about all things art, culture, and community. That’s why I knew Smarthistory would be the perfect choice for me. 

This summer I had the pleasure of interning at Smarthistory. It’s interesting because they cater to the needs of so many different learners; whether you’re in AP Art History or taking a college-level course, there are videos and essays on a variety of art materials from places all over the world. As their summer intern, I had the opportunity to create an educational video on a painting titled Reading Tea Leaves (1899) by Harry Roseland. This painting features an elderly Brooklyn-based Black woman that’s practicing tasseography, a form of fortune telling. I researched the history of fortune telling for African-Americans and discovered how conjure culture intersects with Black economics, the history of racism, and the sovereign agency as a Black individual. I analyzed the visual elements in this painting and the objectification of Black people in Western art. This project was challenging because I never had to create an educational video like this before. I had to adapt to using different platforms, like Screenflow, to create the project. I also had to research complex ideas and analyze the readings. These challenges strengthened my problem-solving skills and adaptability.

 I also learned about the process of photographing art in museums, collaboration, web design, and content development through our “Lunch + Learns.” These were weekly sessions where I met with someone from the team to learn about the different facets and dynamics of the organization. I even got to visit different museums in Los Angeles and practice the photography techniques I was taught. Through my project and these sessions, I learned how to make content visually compelling and easily understandable for any audience. 

Smarthistory is an inclusive, accessible, and equitable space that’s meant to share art history with the masses. I learned this by spending time with the team. Through conversations with the founders, Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris, I was able to further understand the true mission of this organization. As stated by Steven, “One of the missions of Smarthistory is to get people to respect others outside of their culture.” They care deeply about preserving culture and community from different regions and countries around the world. It’s important for them to also hear the perspectives of locals in those communities as well. Given the long history of colonial trade with art materials, oftentimes the artworks are removed from the spaces in which they were meant to exist in. This strips them of their identity and cultural context by isolating them. With this art history platform, the public has an opportunity to read about the works from so many places and understand their culture and traditions. This resonated with me because I’m also interested in the art of preserving and sharing history. It helps us to gain more empathy for people, and their cultural objects, that aren’t familiar to us. It also helps me to understand other works that I’ll study during my college career and beyond. I’ll have a better appreciation for the art materials, but also for where they originated from.

The founders are passionate about sharing knowledge and the history of art, which translates into how hard they work and how they engage with me and other members of their team. Working at a small arts nonprofit remotely was a nice experience, even without seeing everyone in person. There was a big emphasis on communication. They conveyed ideas effectively and were always willing to understand each other. It was enjoyable to be a part of a team like this and work in a nurturing environment.

I created connections with professionals who offered me sound advice for my future aspirations. One of my biggest takeaways from this experience is to take risks. It doesn’t matter what the naysayers tell you; you should always pursue what you believe in and what could help others. That’s what I learned from connecting with Beth and Steven, and hearing their journey as they established this organization. I took risks this summer by studying higher-level graduate materials, learning new platforms, and making mistakes. This team created a space where everyone could come and learn about art from different backgrounds. I think that’s so special. This was truly a rewarding internship that strengthened my appreciation for the art world and the global community.

A conversation with Savannah Woodson and Dr. Beth Harris about Harry Roseland, Reading Tea Leaves, 1899, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76.5 cm (M.S. Rau, New Orleans)

Meet our Summer 2022 AUC intern

Alexandra Nelson is a rising sophomore at Spelman College with an Art History major and Spanish minor. Hear from Alexandra about how her summer at Smarthistory went. . .

What kind of tasks/projects did you do during your internship?

During my 2022 Summer Internship with Smarthistory, I worked on editing audios that would be made into videos, editing videos, a Youtube Card Project (reviewing past Smarthistory YouTube content for hidden terms), and creating a glossary for Content Area 2: Ancient Mediterranean.

What did you learn from those tasks/projects?

Prior to Smarthistory, I had never used Garage Band, Screenflow, or Adobe Photoshop. I loved being able to combine Art History with technology, a field that has been growing rapidly over the past few years. From these projects, I learned that there is a lot of work put into making Smarthistory videos as great as they are and that editing is a very precise job. From reviewing past Smarthistory YouTube content I was able to learn about different pieces of art and their origins that I had never heard of before.

Did you have a favorite project? If so, what was it, and why did you like it?

Although it was most difficult, my favorite project was editing audio. There were many trial and error editing versions, but it was very rewarding when my audio was good enough to be approved.

Was there anything interesting you learned and want to take with you from the lunch and learns? If so, what?

I learned a lot about people’s backgrounds, their journey to working at Smarthistory, and about art history as a whole. The main take away I gathered from all of the lunch and learns was that everyone’s path is not the same and you should take advantage of every opportunity that is given to you. The lunch and learns also inspired me to think about different art history career paths that are available to me and to travel abroad as much as possible.

What was it like working at a small arts nonprofit? How does working remotely and Smarthistory’s work culture differ from other work environments you’ve been in? Did you learn anything about how the size, management style, and work culture of an organization affect your work experience?

I loved the closeness and openness of work at a small arts nonprofit. It’s nice to be able to directly communicate with your supervisor and get a message back within a few minutes. I also felt like an equal part of the team, although I am just a summer intern. Everyone was so kind and welcoming. 

My last internship was working in tech, and the environment largely differed from working with Smarthistory. Although I enjoyed my last internship, the culture of Smarthistory is more intimate and makes it easier to ask questions about projects or anything at all. 

I learned exemplary management skills from Beth and Steven, how to manage a team but also be a great leader and be approachable. It was also amazing to connect with different members of the team and see their contributions to Smarthistory. 

Did you see any art (in museums, public art, through Smarthistory content etc.) that struck you this summer? If so, what was it and how did it impact you?

Through reviewing old Smarthistory YouTube videos for the Youtube Card Project, I was struck by the art of Ceramics, North African Jewelry, and Ethiopian Art. Because I was able to do my internship from New York City this summer, I was able to visit multiple galleries along with museums such as the MET, MoMA, and The Whitney. 

Towards the end of the summer, I was also able to attend some of the Brooklyn Museum’s Intern Programming events where I discovered a field that I may be interested in: Decorative Arts. Now that I know this, I will start looking into Decorative Arts Internship opportunities and Fellowships. 

Summer 2021 AUC intern projects

During the summer of 2021, Zoe Joyner and Nadia Scott joined Smarthistory for a seven-week internship where they curated terms and definitions for AP content area glossaries and learned how to produce a Smarthistory educational video.

Nadia and Zoe started by reading and watching all Smarthistory content in an AP content area on Smarthistory’s Required Works for AP Art History guide, and collecting dozens of terms and definitions that would eventually become glossaries on Smarthistory. These glossaries, now public, are important supplemental learning tools for APAH teachers and students.

Samples from glossaries for AP Content Area 1: Global Prehistory, created with help from Nadia Scott, and AP Content Area 9: The Pacific, created with help from Zoe Joyner

Zoe and Nadia also got a crash course in how to produce a Smarthistory video, including tutorials on how to take photographs of an art object, how to edit photos of art objects, how to edit audio, how to do image research, and how to produce a video.

Zoe chose for her video project an Ndebele apron called an ijogolo from South Africa. One of the essential steps of creating a Smarthistory video is doing image research and selecting key images that will help contextualize the art object as it’s discussed in the audio. Browse some of her image research and selections below:

After researching and editing images and editing the raw audio conversation recorded between Smarthistory staff and/or other scholars, it’s time to put it all together in a video. Nadia’s video project focuses on an 18th century portrait of a woman from New Spain. Watch her final project below:

About the interns

Zoe Joyner

With a History major and Curatorial Studies minor, Zoe Joyner (Spelman College class of 2022) is interested in public history and telling stories that are missing through archives, exhibitions, and educational programming.

Nadia Scott

As of summer 2021, Nadia Scott (Spelman College class of 2024) is a rising second-year majoring in History and minoring in Curatorial Studies. Her interests include public history, history education, and the African diaspora in Mexico.

Summer 2020 AUC intern projects

During the summer of 2020, three Spelman students—Jordan Barrant, Janiya Douglas, and Haleigh Edmonds—conducted original research about the AUC to develop a mapping project using the Knight Lab’s StoryMaps JS. Their stories are below.

by Jordan Barrant

Jordan is a Spelman student from Boston, Massachusetts, who merges her interest in social justice with art history. As a member of the Atlanta University Center Art Collective, she engages with women’s studies and African Diaspora Studies with hopes to make art more accessible to her communities.

by Janiya Douglas

As of September 2020, Janiya is a third-year student at Spelman College majoring in Art History and minoring in Curatorial Studies. Her research interest are critical race and queer theory in visual culture and archives.

by Haleigh Edmonds

Haleigh is a graduating Art History major at Spelman. This map was inspired by a research interest for her exit thesis.