Artist aims to increase community engagement with campus

By Annette Quijada

East Los Angeles College student Samantha Nieves spent their summer as the Getty Marrow  Undergraduate intern for the Vincent Price Art Museum. Nieves uses pronouns they.

Every year, the Getty Foundation announces over 50 Los Angeles-based museums and organizations to fund summer internships for. 

The Getty Marrow Undergraduate Internship Program is a professional development opportunity given to emerging museum professionals, especially undergraduate students of color. Each intern is paid $6,800 during a 10-week period. 

Nieves is an Art History and Sociology major and is currently in the Museum Studies Certificate Program. When looking for an internship, Nieves said their main objective was to apply for one that centered on community engagement and that is what they found at VPAM. 

“I was intentional about wanting to work within my geographic community because I am from East Los Angeles and I recognize that my experience with art stems toward the Westside of L.A.. The fact that the museum is on campus, as a student here, made me question community engagement,” Nieves said. 

Recently VPAM opened it’s  own department of education and, based on the museum’s needs of trying to expand the department, Nieves got the title of intern of education and community engagement.

While working with VPAM, one of the projects Nieves worked on this summer was an exhibition called, “Using our Voices: Student Political Graphic from East Los Angeles College.”

“What was exciting about enhancing this project was watching students who may or may not recognize themselves as artists create something that is so present within our political climate. I saw my job as uplifting them and their political message,” Nieves said.

Nieves said a large part of their internship with the museum was analyzing the relationship between students and the museum and what barriers prevent students from going into the museum. 

Nieves, as part of the art community themselves, said that a few questions that they are always thinking about are:

Where do we have access to art resources?

Where do we have art spaces?

Are there places where we can reflect and ask questions?

“People place invisible barriers on museums because of the colonial reasons they stem from. Museums used to be a ‘kings showroom.’ But since then, museums have shifted to be more educational,” Nieves said.

Nieves was initially afraid to explore campus resources until they joined the Museum Studies Program. 

Nieves said it’s important to look for opportunities that will break those invisible barriers. 

During their time at VPAM, Nieves considered how to have a better system to guide students toward the museum because it’s possible a lot of students just don’t know where the museum is.

One of the other big projects Nieves worked on was establishing the new learning lab inside of VPAM in room 319. The lab is an additional way to get more community engagement on campus.

“This is a brand new space that will be opening later this fall for students this semester. We spent a lot of time envisioning what kind of resource this will be for students, and trying to figure out how we can help students utilize the museum space,” Nieves said.

Nieves said they enjoyed the opportunities the Getty Internship gave them. The internship put them in learning communities where they were able to network with other interns at other museums. 

“I really want to focus on transformative experiences in the museum. Art has given me a transformative experience and I want to continue to curate space for more of these experiences to happen.” 

Nieves hopes to get more students and family into these museum spaces, or at least have more students knowledgeable about the space being there. 

Nieves said VPAM is already working to recognize the needs of students, whether it’s creating more space or just being an art resource.

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