Interning here at the Burchfield Penney Art Center has been so helpful in deciding on potential career paths for my future. Throughout the course of my time here, I have been able to put the knowledge I have learned in my Museum Studies classes at SUNY Fredonia to work. Completing 140 hours of interning has allowed me to be involved in many projects that range in their subject.
For my very first day, I never would have imagined I would be helping to install the Burchfield Botanicals exhibit. Being able to hang paintings, and clean the pedestals (while supervised) was a completely surreal experience. My second day of interning, I was able to hang the exhibit’s labels. Being able to help with the installation process of this exhibit under supervision made understanding each step, and asking questions helpful for future use.
One of my tasks I was given was to transcribe the journals of Charles E. Burchfield. Throughout this process I was able to learn about Burchfield not only as an artist and techniques that he used, but also who he was as a person. Reading his journals gave me an in-depth look into his life, and led me to see what an exceptional man he was. Burchfield’s journals helped me to become inspired and really create an understanding about his mission as an artist. Not only was I able to transcribe the journals, but I was also taught how to upload the journals using the CMS system onto the Burchfield Penney website. This process created a very rewarding feeling to put these journals out to the public for everyone to see.
Another task I was given was to help with the indexing and filing of institutional, artist, exhibition, and permanent collection files. In such a simple task of filing, I was able to learn so much about the Burchfield Penney as an institution. I was able to see past exhibits the Burchfield Penney held, and was able to see many aspects of what goes into to putting on an exhibit just by looking in an exhibits file. I was also able to see important artists who have contributed a lot to the Burchfield Penney and its collection.
By collaborating with other interns, we helped with condition reports and the wrapping of artwork while being supervised for a show that was travelling to Chautauqua. Being able to work with others for these two tasks was important to be able to work together and help each other out, especially when some of the Burchfield artworks needed to be handled by more than one person.
I am completing this internship for class credit, and in doing so one of the requirements for my school is to create an exhibition proposal based on the tools and collection of the archives. Although this is a fake exhibition I wanted the proposal to have a theme that could easily be done. One of the artist’s that grabbed my attention was a Buffalo watercolorist Margaret M. Martin. The archive holds many items that were owned by the artist including sketchbooks, awards and ribbons, financial records, publications, newspaper clippings, exhibition invites and much more. While going through her sketches it reminded me of transcribing the journals of Burchfield, a connection between the two artists was very apparent. I decided to make the exhibition in the Collection Study Gallery, and to have the theme of Margaret M. Martin and her life in Buffalo, NY. With this I would show many of her life achievements in this city, as well as sketches, and paintings.
Being able to intern under the incredible staff at the Burchfield Penney has taught me so many skills that I will be able to look back on the rest of my career. Working on and completing so many tasks throughout this summer has made everything I have learned in the class room come to life. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and cannot wait to see what else the Burchfield Penney has in store for the future!
Danielle Gmerek is an Art History major at SUNY Fredonia in her senior year.