Accessibility Tools

By Sarah Benedict

For the final Career Trek of the semester, ArtsForce took students to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Only a short walk away from the art building on campus, this museum is renowned for its large collection of works, dedication to connecting with K-12 schools, and historic impact on the arts in Utah. This trek was a wonderful opportunity for CFA students to interact directly with the wide array of professionals in the UMFA and to gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to run a museum. It also gave them a chance to connect with peers who shared similar career interests and goals.

Bringing students to a meeting room on the top floor, Nancy Rivera, Director of Planning and Program, created an environment that encouraged participants to engage and communicate with her coworkers. She brought along Katie Seastrand, Manager of School and Teacher Programs; Emily Lawhead, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; and Fiona Marcelino, Individual Giving Manager. They each began the discussion by introducing themselves, explaining how they got to their current positions, and giving students some insight on what their day-to-day looks like.

Before participants got to ask their own questions, the professionals jumped in and asked students why people don’t come to art museums. This opened the floor to a conversation about the uninviting environment that people might believe museums to have. Some students wondered whether certain communities have felt underrepresented in these spaces, while others talked about feeling like they didn’t have enough time or money to attend. These barriers are all necessary for curators and other museum workers to constantly explore, as community participation is undeniably vital. 

A highlight of the discussion was learning about the history of the UMFA, including how the design of the building preserves artwork, about the effects of its 19-month closure that ended in 2017, and how their K-12 educational programs adapted to continue supporting teachers during the COVID pandemic.

Towards the end, students asked questions and learned more about the ways they can become involved with the museum, including their internship opportunities and community events. Job opportunities can be found on their website here.

"Sonic Blossom""Sonic Blossom" at UMFA | Photo Adelaide Ryder

During the trek, some of the works displayed at the UMFA were Chiura Abata’s "Layer by Layer/Horses" and Lee Mingwei’s "Sonic Blossom." After talking with Nancy and her coworkers, participants had the chance to explore these exhibits. "Sonic Blossom" involved direct participation where some students were selected to sit alone on a chair and individually experience the “gift of song” from a classically trained singer.

The trek ended with refreshments from the museum’s cafe and a moment to reflect on what everyone had learned from the professionals at the UMFA. Participants left with one of UMFA’s quarterly pamphlets and volumes of Southwest Contemporary, a magazine that focuses on contemporary art. 

ArtsForce Takeaways:

  • Ask yourself how accessibility can be increased in the arts; a central part of a curator’s job is to discuss how the societal barriers around museums can be removed. 

  • The operations of a museum are only possible with the multiple professionals within it, most of which coming from different backgrounds. 

  • Don’t be afraid to engage with the resources already available to you on campus. Tickets to the UMFA are free for U of U students and staff through ArtsPass! 

Author Sarah Benedict is an ArtsForce Emerging Leaders Intern, and is studying Film & Media Arts with an emphasis in Animation and minoring in Drawing and Arts Technology.

Sarah Benedict

Author Sarah Benedict is studying Film & Media Arts with an emphasis in Animation, and minoring in Drawing and Arts Technology. She is an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce. 

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