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Money to Learn: Paid Summer Internships
Two Washington College art history graduates put the “history” half of their degrees to good use over the summer as Comegys Bight Fellows in Washington, D.C. For Carolyn Bevans ’13 and Erica Ward ’13, the paid fellowships offered by the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience provided valuable hands-on experience before the next step in their fledgling careers.
Bevans’ nine-week fellowship at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum focused on researching artists of the American West for an exhibition, still in the planning stages, about the national parks. Immersing in the work and papers of Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt among others, she specifically examined art and history related to Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. “I’m reading everything, secondary and primary resources. We have the Archives of American Art right beneath us, so to just dip down there and go through the primary sources is great,” she says. “I love research. If you’re not finding anything that’s all that interesting or particularly relevant it can be monotonous, but it’s all worth it for that moment when you read that one passage, and there’s that moment of discovery or epiphany that motivates the rest of your research.”
Meantime, her friend and fellow 2013 graduate Erica Ward worked in the National Portrait Gallery studying art and history related to women in the post-suffrage period. The proposed exhibit would celebrate the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment in 2020. Most photographers and artists focused on the period of the suffrage movement; fewer paid attention to the era between the 1920s and the 1960s. “I’m looking for women who have made an impact or have something special that signified them as a New Woman, or someone making advances post-suffrage,” Ward says. “Women we’ve not heard of, and iconic women, too.” After finding a subject within the historic context, she then had to find the images to tell the story—if any existed.
One of her best ah-ha moments was learning the story of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967. A race official tried to yank Switzer off the racecourse in mid-stride when her then-boyfriend, a 235-pound ex-All American football player, threw a block at the official that nearly tossed him into the next county. Photographers caught the whole incident in a series of black-and-white still images. Ward, whose focus in College was the Renaissance, says this research has been eye opening and fun. “It’s not anything I’ve ever worked with before, and I like that, learning something new every day,” she says. “I’ve become really interested in feminism through this research, and maybe I’ll focus on it more.”
After her fellowship, Bevans was headed to graduate school at Johns Hopkins while interning part-time at the American Art Museum through April. Ward had applied for an internship at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, and a job at the Maryland Historical Society. They were among ten Washington College students who benefited this summer from the Comegys Bight Fellowship Program, offered by the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. Established in 2003 by Drs. Thomas and Virginia Collier of Chestertown, the program pairs students with curators and directors at distinguished national institutions where they gain hands-on experience in fully paid positions that can launch them into their careers. In addition to the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum, students this summer worked at the Library of Congress, the National Constitution Center, the Maryland State Archives and the U.S. House of Representatives.