Working with Sotheby’s Institute of Art’s (SIA) pre-college program was a really great insight into the many ways to teach art history and the benefits of online learning. SIA is typically a two week course where students spend time living in dorms at Fordham Lincoln Center in the heart of New York City and spend their days visiting museums, galleries, and other cultural spaces around the city and meeting important figures in the art world. It is no doubt that students were disappointed that they would now be taking the class from home, but the SIA team worked together to create a truly memorable online environment and showed how community can form even when students are in different states and countries, which made students perspectives and connections even stronger.
This was my third year working with the SIA team. In the summer of 2017, I attended the program as a high school student who loved museums and left with a real passion for art business. In 2019 I was invited back to the program, this time as a teaching assistant with four different two-week classes. I was lucky enough to be offered the same position for summer 2020, and though the program would still go on, my job was canceled due to budget cuts just a few months before the program was set to begin. With the help of the Eugene Lang Opportunity Awards, I was able to return to SIA during a time when they most needed extra help.
My new position as academic intern meant that I would spend my afternoons observing the different classes, and working one-on-one with students in the virtual academic lounge, which was a time at the end of classes where students could ask for help on anything from class projects, to college essays, and questions about what it’s like to study art history in university. My favorite part of my job was planning our twice-daily community sessions for which I worked closely with the Co-Curricular Programming team. In the morning I planned lectures and discussions with the students where we had really interesting conversations to warm up the students for their day of classes. Some of the lectures I planned looked in-depth at an artist’s body of work, discussions about art in the age of COVID, and time to reflect on how classes were going. The evening community hour was a highlight for everyone, and it was so rewarding to that see come to fruition. We had spent time planning actives for students to help them unwind at the end of a long day of classes and it was so wonderful to see how students could create relationships with each other through during that time.
We planned an art scavenger where students ran around their houses to find objects based on the clues and prompts, which was a fun, educational way to keep their minds engaged in the field of art that was more than just sitting in front of a computer. Other events included talks lead by the artist Delano Dunn and the street artist DAZE, as well as talks led the Hill Art Foundation based in Chelsea.
Working with the SIA team and seeing how the program came together was immensely gratifying, and I’m so glad that I was able to find a way to work with the incredible SIA team again. I’m not sure who was more nervous about the program, the staff or the students, but after the first few days of the first session, it was clear that this was a special program that we had put together and I feel really lucky to have been a part of the process and see it all play out.