Hands-On Learning in Art & Visual Studies

Whittier College prepares students for exciting careers in art, especially with resources like Los Angeles' world-class museums nearby.

Danielle Pesquiera at LACMA.Celebrating Diverse Art in Los Angeles

Not everyone gets to work at one the biggest art museums in the nation as a college sophomore.

Danielle Pesqueira was thrilled to hear she’d earned the privilege. During her second year at Whittier, she’s working on photography exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the largest art museum in the western United States, thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program.

The two-year fellowship provides historically underrepresented students across the country with hands-on experience in a museum, where they help curators and staff on exhibitions, collections, and programs. Professor Paula Radisich, professor of art history, helped Danielle apply for the fellowship, which has given her access to an amazing resource.

Now in the first year of the program, Danielle has been learning the ins and outs of LACMA’s operations and assisting with its photography exhibits.

“I’ve loved it so far,” she said. “I know that this is a really great opportunity.”

She’s also been happy to blend her fellowship with her classes at Whittier. The encyclopedic museum provides ample examples for her to use in her class assignments, while the lessons she learns about art history come in handy when she heads downtown.

As a Latinx, Danielle also hopes to celebrate culturally diverse points of view in the museum. It’s her goal to one day educate people about art, particularly female artists.

Diversity in art is a topic Whittier is tackling, as well. Kate Albers, assistant professor of art and visual culture, teaches a new course at the College focusing on Latinx artists' work in the past 100 years, which Albers said hasn't received as much recognition, particularly in academia. As she leads her students through murals, photographs, and other artwork, she's clearly seen Danielle's passion as she eagerly engages with the class.

"She’s clearly passionate about a more inclusive version of art history, a more inclusive role for museums addressing and incorporating a much broader spectrum of artists, of artwork," Albers said. "I think that she is well positioned to be doing the kind of work that she wants to do."

Danielle knows an advanced degree is expected for curatorial work, and her preparation as an undergraduate has given her a strong start.

Students examine art exhibit modelA Summer Internship Preserving Cultural History

In the middle of learning every aspect of designing an exhibition, a moment stood out to Rosalba Ponce. Early into the internship at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection in Virginia, she felt honored to hold one of the indigenous figures—an object of such cultural significance, and one she worked to preserve the history of.

At Kluge-Ruhe, the only museum in the nation that solely exhibits Australian aboriginal art, Rosalba spent a summer helping to produce an exhibition catalogue and other components of the exhibit.

“It has prepared me with the use of unconventional materials, the value of art, and issues that deal with the notion of authenticity,” Rosalba said.

She began the internship with an advantage: she knows how to approach and analyze artwork with ease, thanks to her foundation in art history and studio classes at Whittier. Showcasing her original work on campus also helped her step into a museum like Kluge-Ruhe and analyze its space and pieces.

The internship has given Rosalba hands-on experience and diverse perspectives about the benefits and struggles of museum work. She knows the summer she spent amid this singular art collection will help her in her graduate school pursuits.

Mario Almaraz Intern in the Los Angeles Area

Mario Almaraz was awarded a prestigious Getty Multicultural Internship at the Center for the Study of Political Graphics (CSPG), which archives more than 85,000 protest graphics from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. As an archive and research intern there, Almaraz researched and catalogued historical and contemporary social movement posters, helped update the CSPG's online collection finding aid, and assisted in exhibition research and development.

The Lincoln Heights native credits the College's art professors with giving him the depth of knowledge that helped him land the internship.

In particular, his opportunity to become a studio assistant to Professor Danny Jauregui provided Almaraz with valuable experience that "many internship positions" were looking for, he said. Almaraz called the studio assistantship "one of the best experiences I have had here at Whittier College.”

To learn more about internships and other professional opportunities, contact the Weingart Center for Career and Professional Development.