Arrowmont’s Internship Program provides an opportunity to work with staff for a two-three month period and learn about nonprofit administration. Alex Simental is the first studio and program intern, assisting in the galleries, artist supply store, and studio departments on campus. Here, she shares her impressions of the first half of her internship in Summer 2021.
By Alex Simental
When I first arrived to Arrowmont, I had no idea what to expect other than learning what it is like to work for a nonprofit. I had previously attended a week-long workshop through The Windgate University Fellow Program, but I was too immersed in the experience to recognize the many moving parts within the organization.
When your only task is to make work as an artist/student, it is easy to forget how many other things must come together in order to make your time seamless and unforgettable.
As a program intern, I am tasked each day to help one of three departments: the supply store, the gallery, or the studios. What I do shifts each day as often as the rain in Gatlinburg; I mold into the employee that is needed most.
Working in the supply store in many ways is just like you would expect: organizing, restocking, and ringing out people at the register. It can be a nice escape from the weekly changes between classes. However, I’ve come to understand that the supply store does much more than how a regular store operates. The store must work with each studio department to figure out materials needed each week and also how much has been used. I’ve learned about working with artists, making sales, inventory, and adjusting to technological systems more than I expected. I’ve also learned the importance of trying to keep improving / innovating even if a system seems to be working; there are always ways to improve and it is important not to stagnate potential progress.
Working in the studios is always different; some days consist of supporting classes, others involve prepping for new workshops. Every week studios change and things need to be moved around but it isn’t all manual labor. I’ve learned a lot about the materials that need to be ordered or created, how to work with instructors, how to budget out each of the needed items, and limitations that sometimes arise from budgeting. Each studio technician has been careful to provide me with the opportunity to learn new skills, whether it be creating slips and glazes, installing new items, servicing equipment and more.
Working in the gallery is quiet and peaceful; it is the one place that I can rely on to be consistent and unchanged. In fact, ensuring that artwork hasn’t been moved by viewers is one important aspect of the job. Most days I maintain the space by carefully dusting, sweeping, and occasionally spot painting the walls. I’ve also had the opportunity to install an exhibition, and will be installing another in the next week, which has allowed me to learn many important details about organizing a show, how work is best presented, creating labels, and working with other artists.
Aside from the usual work, I’ve also had opportunities to take on other projects, like creating brass bracelets for 2021 Windgate University Fellows. Other times I may get to sit in on meetings or have one-on-one meetings with other managers and/or directors, which has helped give me insight on what is important to a nonprofit organization. Having access to my own studio space lets me escape when I need to reconnect with my work. Eventually, I’ll be able to take a one-week studio class of my choice.
Living on campus has allowed me to interact and connect with the many new faces that come each week. It is incredible to be surrounded by so many creative people each day.
Seeing and meeting so many people has really helped me build my communicative skills.
It was a little unnerving at first to be unsure of how a full day would pan out but this internship has pushed me to be more versatile. I don’t usually realize how much I’m learning in day to day work, but as each week passes, I look back and realize more and more how much I have gained from this experience and its not even over yet. I am so grateful for the opportunities this internship has provided me with and I will certainly be sad when it is time to go.
A multidisciplinary artist, S. Alex Simental completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture at Marshall University in 2020. The organic nature of clay inspires her work as a sculptor. Her recent projects draw from experiences with adolescent depression and examine the psychological influences on and solutions to mental health. Through surrealist paintings and layering sound and image in video/audio works, Simental references subconscious characteristics. Her work was included in Foundations Review: Selected Student Works Spring 2018 (2nd place) and the 34th Annual Student Juried Show (3rd place) at Marshall University. In 2019, she was a Windgate University Fellow and attended a glass casting and flameworking workshop at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. Simental received Marshall’s prestigious, university-wide Creative Research and Discovery Award for a project that highlights the significance of improving mental health in adolescence and displays the importance and positive impact of teacher intervention to struggling students. She is currently program and studio intern at Arrowmont.