Shannon Bewley has assumed many roles during her time at the Birmingham Museum of Art, but her most recent position is serving as the 2017-2018 Goodrich Intern. This yearlong internship provides undergraduates or graduate students in art, art history, museum studies, or related fields the chance to explore the possibilities of a museum career. As the Goodrich Intern, Bewley has spent time with three departments of the Museum: Educational, Development, and Registration.
Birmingham Museum of Art: Tell us about yourself.
Shannon Bewley: I’m from Vestavia Hills, Alabama, and left to go to art school in Auburn, but now I’m back! I’ve been at the Museum in various capacities on and off for several years. I started as a camp counselor after high school, then as an education intern, and now I serve as the Goodrich Intern.
BMA: What initially drew you to the Goodrich Internship?
SB: I’m really interested in curating contemporary art. I think a lot of people think it’s just about picking art and putting it up on the walls, but it really requires numerous different departments. That’s what the Goodrich Internship is about — getting you in different departments and showing you how they work together to get the art up on the walls in a way that looks effortless.
BMA: What have you gained from working in the different departments at the Museum?
SB: I understand more specifically what they do as opposed to just a generally abstract idea. It has connected the dots for me on how everything works in a Museum by seeing all the departments work together but also seeing how they work individually.
BMA: Is there anything you wish was common knowledge about art museums?
SB: It’s not just about coming and looking at art and trying to have this intellectual experience with it. You don’t have to be serious — you don’t even really have to stop walking through the galleries. There is no one way to come and spend time in the Museum.
BMA: What’s next for you after you complete the Goodrich Internship?
SB: First, graduate school, which is a big, scary thing in the future. Really, I would like to work on a broader scale to make institutions friendlier by being a little more open about what they are. A museum is an invented environment. Art does not really exist in this kind of space with nothing around it except a label. So, I guess the question is how do we get people through the door by making the Museum seem less scary? That can be little things like text next to a painting explaining why it is important, why it is art, why you should care, or something as simple as making sure maps are legible and easy to understand.
BMA: Do you have any advice for anyone interested in applying for the Goodrich Internship?
SB: Apply and be honest as to why you love museums, why you want to be here. Museums are these wonderful places that still have a lot of paperwork to be sent and things to be accomplished, but you’re moving toward the ultimate goal of art on the walls curated as a beautiful show. The exhibitions almost cloak everything that happens behind the walls. If you’re applying to be the Goodrich Intern, you’re applying to learn about all the things that go on beyond the exhibitions.
BMA: Is it worth it?
SB: Oh, yeah! Totally worth it!