The Bloomberg Arts Internship: A Perfect Match
“Do you know what a stage manager is? You might be a stage manager.” CJ Philip would know. The award-winning choreographer and artistic director of Dance and Bmore has spent more than enough time on, in front of, and behind the stage to identify the qualities necessary for the role. “The stage manager is air traffic control,” she tells a group of rising high school seniors over Zoom. “If you’re stage manager, you’re communicating with lighting, dance directors, sound—if you wanna know something, ask the stage manager.”
The students are rapt. Not only is CJ an expert in her field, she knows how to cultivate relationships with young people. How lucky we are that Dance & Bmore has returned for a 5th year as a worksite for the Bloomberg Arts Internship.
Since 2017, the Bloomberg Arts Internship has matched rising high school seniors in Baltimore City Public Schools with the city’s premiere arts and cultural institutions to explore careers in the arts first-hand. The students learn that it takes talented individuals from a variety of backgrounds and with skills across many disciplines to create a final product—what the public experiences. The seven-week program, now in its 5th year in Baltimore, runs this summer from July 6 to August 20, with 25 interns working with 18 organizations.
Kristina Berdan, YA’s education director of Baltimore City initiatives, organized the virtual matching session for new interns and worksites. She and team member Joanna Thursby, her executive assistant, have created a loving, energetic, and comfortable space for participants to gather and get to know each other. “You should not consider this a formal interview, but a question and answer period,” she said.
The session begins with small groups completing an introductory task: design the vending machines of their dreams. In no time at all, participants imagine wild combinations of comfort and happiness nestled in springs and levers and housed behind glass. One is stocked with guinea pigs, band aids, and lots of peace. The contents are a delicious blend of fantastic and practical, abstract and essential: sushi, hope, and hair ties; puppies, kittens, and a good night’s sleep.
This icebreaker is anything but awkward. There is laughter and collaboration as a student wonders out loud, “How often do these get changed out anyway?” One group is trying to make their vending machine bigger. They have no trouble envisioning their unlikely contraptions. And because this is Smalltimore, there are reunions of sorts. One student recognizes another from their TWIGS program at Baltimore School for the Arts from years back, while another immediately recognizes a worksite partner—a dear friend of her mother. It’s amazing how connected the worksite partners and interns feel after just a few minutes of brainstorming together. “I feel like I’ve known you forever,” said Chin-Yer from Dewmore Poetry. “Well, one of you I have known forever.”
The participants reunite after a while, a little bit smilier than they left, a little bit less nervous, and, some, wishing the vending machine of their dreams really did exist. It is at this point that the interns introduce themselves to the group, and worksite representatives learn that this talented cohort will bring everything from out-of-the-box thinking, communication skills, teamwork, and good vibes to photo-editing skills and visual art and musical talent to their internships. What’s more, they will bring an invaluable resource to the arts and cultural organizations: youth voice.
Single Carrot Theatre, another worksite returning to the program, is seeking their next community partnership intern. They’re looking for a student who enjoys research and connecting with people. Over the course of this internship, students will be in conversation with designers, and even get to sit in and observe auditions and experience the callback process.
Local nonprofit Art with a Heart is looking for a student interested in digital arts, 3D printing, and digital fabrication and design. This intern will assist in developing products for their online store, Heartwares, that was created in order to continue connecting with the community despite COVID restrictions.
The engaging process made it clear: worksites are as equally excited to share their work as they are to learn from and partner with these students. Together, they will engage and inspire younger audiences through the creation of new programs and activities. This, worksites understand, is an opportunity for them to harness the unique technical and social skills of this generation.
Between time at their worksites, in professional development workshops, and virtual field trips, the 2021 interns will receive college guidance, life skills, and build meaningful relationships and connections with Baltimore artists and people working in the arts. “This is deeper than an internship,” said Chin-Yer. “We stay in touch for years and years and become a family.”
To learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Program, click here, and be sure to follow the program’s Instagram page to stay up to date on interns’ experiences this summer.