This summer, College students participated in the inaugural cohorts of two new arts programs in Berkshire County’s thriving summer arts scene. The Williams Summer Arts & Museums Immersion Program, run by the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), and the Williams College/Williamstown Theater Festival (WTF) Summer Intensive Training Program (SITP) each placed cohorts of approximately 20 students in internships that helped make the most of the College’s ongoing commitment to local arts.
WCMA was able to coordinate internships at off-the-beaten-track museums on Route 2, which connects the Clark Art Institute via WCMA to MASS MoCA. Greta Gruber ’23, a history major, worked as an intern at the Stockbridge-Munsee Mission House in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where she led the Mohican Miles exhibit and spoke with visitors about the history of the Stockbridge-tribe. Munsee and the work of the Williamstown Historic Preservation Office.
“It was an interesting situation, because there aren’t many other situations where you have to be confronted with history and talk history to strangers,” Gruber said. “A museum space is almost the only space where you would ever do that.”
According to Gruber, his work at the Stockbridge-Munsee Mission House differed from the curatorial, finance, and studio positions offered at other institutions included in the Summer Arts and Museums Immersion Program. The work stood out for the effect of recent repatriation efforts – some cultural objects, which were previously housed in the Mohican Miles space, had been repatriated in recent years to the tribe in Wisconsin.
“I had to negotiate the priority [the visitor’s] experience versus real history and the realities of today’s history,” Gruber explained. “The flip side of not being able to see this object is that it’s back in its place. It was quite memorable.
The two College interns at the Stockbridge-Munsee Mission House made the trip to Stockbridge four times a week with two other College interns at Chesterwood, the estate and museum of Daniel Chester French, who is best known for his design of the Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial. Sofia Stefani ’25 served in a variety of roles while helping the small team there, working in departments such as museum admissions, web design, contemporary art exhibitions, the Chesterwood Archives housed in the library College Chapin, the gift shop and a conservation project. cataloging all the public monuments produced by the French.
Stefani, who also said she regularly brought friends from the College to the estate on her days off towards the end of the program, enjoyed interacting with members of the public who came early to the contemporary art shows held in Chesterwood and explaining the unique characteristics of the area.
“It was a very different vibe than when I walked into a museum here – it was really site-specific,” Stefani said. “They had tableaux vivants, which would have been performed when Daniel Chester French lived there in the early 1900s. I don’t think that’s something I could see in many other places.
For Jackson Small ’24, a curatorial and collections intern working primarily on cataloging medieval art collections at WCMA, the experience of the Summer Arts and Museums Immersion Program has been invaluable both during and outside the hours he spent at work.
In addition to participating in workshops with local leaders in the arts, the cohort of 17 interns involved in WCMA’s immersion program traveled to New York and met with an assistant director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a day when it was closed to the public.
“Not only was I working in a museum, but I was also being exposed to people in the industry who could give you valuable advice on where to go from here,” Small said of his experience on the program. of immersion. “It’s the very first year they’ve done this, so we were the guinea pigs. But I had a good time being a guinea pig.
The Summer Intensive Training Program (SITP) run by the College and the Williamstown Theater Festival (WTF) hosted a cohort of 20 students, half of whom were College students and the other half recruited by WTF from other other institutions. The inaugural program kicked off last summer specifically because of the relationship between the WTF’s new acting artistic director, Jenny Gersten, and Kevin O’Rourke, director of the career program and mentor of the College’s theater department.
Casey Monteiro ’24 and Eddie Wolfson ’23 both attended STUDIO ’62 last summer, the precursor to SITP. Monteiro participated in the program remotely and Wolfson lived on campus, although all activities took place online due to the pandemic. Both students described STUDIO’62, which was hosted solely by the College, as a less structured program organized around a single mentor and an individualized learning experience. On the other hand, the SITP placed the students in two specific departments working on the festival itself, according to their preferences.
Throughout the program, Monteiro worked in management and at the box office. Plus, she found opportunities to perform outside of the schedule — an unexpected bonus considering the busy nature of a summer theater like WTF.
“Because we’re all theater buffs and we used to live in Greylock [Quad] together on our days off people would text in our group chat and be like, “Hey, I’ve got this piece I wrote a long time ago, would anyone be interested in going to the theater and read it?” she says.
Gersten’s appearance during the performance of a WTF Directing Fellow show in which Monteiro performed was representative of the energetic and constructive nature of the program’s atmosphere.
In previous years, WTF crew members have reported feeling overworked, unsafe, and underappreciated. Many of the changes SITP has made to summer student theater programs, including the new emphasis on hands-on learning, reflect the complexity of a program coordinated by a WTF leadership committed to improving of the work environment and culture of its staff following previous allegations. dangerous conditions.
Wolfson said conditions were improved even for students. “They made sure we stuck to 40 hours a week,” they said.
Wolfson, who worked in costumes and production, was particularly engaged at the seminar with Michael R. Jackson, best known for his Tony Award-winning musical. A strange loop. Wolfson noted that the chance to meaningfully engage with such an artist was incredible, made even better by the ability to do so with a stipend. “As a young artist, there aren’t a lot of opportunities where you get paid to learn,” Wolfson said.