Not everyone gets to work at one the biggest art museums in the nation as a college sophomore.
Danielle Pesqueira ’21, an art history major and gender studies minor, was thrilled to hear she’d earned the privilege. For the past several months, she’s been 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.
Pesqueira earned her place in the fellowship after an intensive week at LACMA last summer. She and 14 other students applying for the fellowship each analyzed a photograph in the museum’s collection. Pesqueira was assigned a small photograph by Rose Mandel—so small, it could fit in your palm. The black-and-white image captured an eye reflected in a window, and Pesquiera was able to deftly assess how it showcased intimacy. Her analysis was so strong, she made the cut as only a rising sophomore. She shares that distinction with only a few in her national cohort.
Now in the first year of the program, Pesqueira 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, Pesqueira 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, associate 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 Pesqueira'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. "She has a maturity in the way that she talks about that question and that challenge that’s facing museums now, really nationally... I think that she is well positioned to be doing the kind of work that she wants to do."
Professor Paula Radisich, professor of art history, helped Pesqueira apply for the fellowship, which has given her access to an amazing resource. Pesqueira knows an advanced degree is expected for curatorial work, and her preparation as an undergraduate has given her a strong start.