Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March 25, 2022 flipbook.
Her shoes clicking across the floor as she walks by walls covered in bright colors and profound messages, art history senior Maria Contreras begins her day working as a student admissions assistant at the Blanton Museum of Art.
Helping guests check in, answering questions and providing any needed information about current exhibits, Contreras offers a smiling face guests see as they walk through the doors. The Blanton not only influences guests, but also impacts Contreras, providing a space to gain firsthand experience working at an art museum.
“I have always studied art history and gone to museums, but I’ve never gotten to experience and meet the people behind the scenes,” Contreras said. “Working here has helped me appreciate art (and) museums as institutions and the work that goes with it.”
For Contreras, the Blanton offers her and other UT students the opportunity to dive into the art world, allowing them to understand, internalize and appreciate it more intimately and bring this knowledge to students and guests that visit the museum. The volunteer and internship experience, where students participate in professional development seminars, tours and exhibition openings, has given Contreras the opportunity to explore and grow in her own journeys — both academic and internal.
Morgan Boudousquie, art history junior and Blanton volunteer, said she found herself more capable of speaking about art with guests, which contributed to the growth of her confidence.
“The museum is magnetizing, and I’ve had more meaningful conversations about the art (there),” Boudousquie said.
Susan Griffin, manager of visitor and volunteer services, said working at the museum fosters a deeper connection with students and how they interact with art.
“I love meeting a variety of people (who) love art and are interested in being here,” Griffin said. “I get the opportunity to see how art excites students and how they are bringing this excitement to the museum.”
Ariel Cacic, an assistant in visitor services and former art student, said working at the Blanton has added to her own background knowledge of the process behind displaying art.
“I studied art in college, and working here has been a great extension of learning how the art world works,” Cacic said. “Being involved in the arts, on the business side, has greatly helped me find my own idea of what (goes on behind the scenes).”
The Blanton offers students an array of opportunities to work closely with professional artists and work on developmental skills, said Contreras. This hands-on work influences volunteers’ lives as they continue with art, creating connections that last a lifetime.
“I have met so many people in the industry based all over the world,” Contreras said. “Once you have the opportunity to be in this environment — the heart of a museum — it definitely gives a launching pad for more opportunities like that and for appreciating the art in a more impactful way.”