Many art galleries help to cultivate a new generation of art dealers by providing internships to learn the gallery business. Here we are going to explore some of the fundamental elements of a successful art gallery internship program.
An internship is not just for summer anymore. They can run year long or even be virtual or remote. Today you have many options for how you structure a program to meet your gallery’s needs and abilities.
Bringing an intern into your gallery can have many benefits for your business.
- Increased productivity: Setting up an internship program enables you delegate many day to day tasks that can easily be taught and supervised. Taking certain tasks off your plate, even if only short-term, allows you time to focus on bigger, more creative projects for your business.
- New perspectives: Your gallery may benefit from a younger generation’s viewpoint and fresh ideas. They could bring to the table ideas about adopting new technologies to streamline processes, innovative business practices learned in school or even creative ideas for attracting new collectors.
- Scout new employee talent: Gallery interns may become future full time employees. An internship program allows both gallery and intern the opportunity to assess if the working relationship is a good fit. Once an intern graduates and enters the workforce, the transition as full time gallery employee is much easier and employee retention increases.
- Community support: As a small business owner in your community, hiring local students as interns is a wonderful way to strengthen your position in the community and give back by supporting local students.
Developing an Art Gallery Internship Program
If decide you would like to offer an internship program in your gallery, first make sure all gallery staff is on board with the idea and willing to participate. An intern is not just free or cheap labor. They are seeking an internship to learn and often get school credit.
The best gallery internship programs leave the student with a comprehensive understanding of all roles involved in running a fine art gallery. With the opportunity to learn from multiple staff members, the experience will be more rewarding for both student and gallery.
Before posting a position on job boards, give some thought to the structure of your program. When designing a structure ask yourself the following questions.
- What is the time frame of the internship?
- Will the internship be paid or unpaid?
- What are the overall learning objectives about the gallery business?
- In what ways can an intern have involvement in day-to-day tasks and special projects?
- Who will supervise the intern and provide evaluations?
- Is there a workspace available for an intern?
- What expectations and qualifications are needed in an intern?
- How will the intern rotate to different departments or roles throughout the internship period?
For management purposes, it is a good idea to have single designated supervisor for the intern. A junior member of gallery staff is often recommended. This allows those most vital to the business to stay focused contributing to the bottom line. It gives the junior staff member management experience and the intern may feel more comfortable working with someone closer to their age.
Students seek out internships to gain real-world experience, earn school credit, learn new skills and build their resume. Feedback and evaluations are an important aspect of achieving their internship goals. If they will receive school credit for their internship, written evaluations are often a requirement of the school.
Develop a standardized process for evaluating your intern’s progress and improvements. As part of an orientation process when they first arrive in the gallery, review the different roles and expectations for performance of their tasks throughout the internship period. Provide the intern with tasks, timeline and expectations in writing. Be specific for each task you assign, so you establish a benchmark for evaluation. Clear communication makes an internship program run much smoother for all involved.
With written expectations presented in the beginning of an internship, there is no room for misunderstandings. It also makes evaluations more accurate and comprehensive with an established guide for what should be accomplished.
Evaluations should be done throughout the internship period and at the end.
To the Point
If you have not designed an intern program for your gallery business, I hope now you have the confidence to give it go. Plan the experience you can provide an intern in advance of hiring. Think of what you wish you knew when you were starting out.
I recommend not overwhelming with too much responsibility to start. Do not put an inexperienced and unknowledgeable intern in a client facing position to start. This includes social media, unless you are prepared to work very closely with them to ensure the quality of posts is in line with your sales and marketing messaging.
It is so rewarding nurturing a future galleriest. They can bring fresh insights to many aspects of your business as well. If you are able to hire them full time one day, you might find internship experience created one of your most passionate and loyal employees.