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Rafael S., '09 Photography

Internship Success Story

Rafael Soldi, '09 Photography


New York, NY

Being an international student at MICA meant that my family lived abroad and, therefore, I was able to just "pick a city and go" during my summers. My first summer in college I stayed in the D.C. area with some relatives and got a job, made some money; I needed to take it easy and rest from my first year at MICA. My second summer, however, I wanted to hit the ground running. I knew I wanted to intern at a photography gallery because I had started to get interested in curatorial work and I just simply always had an itch to physically handle photography. I loved the whole idea of putting a show together, even if it wasn't my own. I started my search early (December) and walked through some of the most important gallery districts in New York (Chelsea, SoHo, East side) and visited every photo gallery that knew of. If I liked the work and the environment I asked them if they hired summer interns, took one of their business cards and asked them who to address my cover letter to. And so I started my Spring Semester at MICA with a list of about 20 or so galleries that I was genuinely interested in. I researched each one (and dumped some) and then carefully wrote each cover letter to cater each different gallery. I sent out my applications around March and heard back from about 5, interviewed with 3 and got offered 2. I ended up accepting an internship at Clampart, which was my first choice from get-go so I was very happy.

Clampart was a defining experience for me for many reasons. First off, the staff was wonderfully welcoming, very knowledgeable and very eager to teach me. I cared very deeply about the artwork they showed (which later informed my own thesis work) and respected their artists very much. Throughout my first summer at Clampart I worked closely with the Director and the Art Handler. The staff was able to identify my skills and put me to work on real projects. I installed and de-installed exhibitions, I helped keep inventory of the artwork, I maintained the gallery website and performed everyday gallery tasks. A few weeks into my internship the Director of the gallery realized that I took my job very seriously and hired me (for pay) to come in extra days a week and do major website maintenance and aid with other gallery duties. I traveled to New York frequently during my Junior year to visit Clampart and attend their openings, and that summer I came back as an intern, although I was more of a Gallery Assistant (I was getting paid and my duties changed). This time around I was trusted with the gallery keys and password and I ran the gallery completely on my own on the weekends. I dedicated myself to the gallery website and I was given the liberty to choose and write content for it. I still helped with mounting exhibitions and the overall maintenance of the gallery. I grew even closer with the staff and, again, made some fantastic connections.

Throughout my senior year all of this came in handy. Every time a visiting artist came to my department for example, due to some 7-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon type thing, I was always able to bring up an artist, collector or gallerist whom we had in common and it sparked conversations that led to exchanging business cards and what not. I also started running a gallery space on campus that went fantastically well. When I started looking for jobs after graduation, the first thing I did was contact the Director of Clampart who said he would love to hire me but is unable due to financial constraints. Throughout my tedious job search he was always kind enough to write me plenty recommendation letters, put in a word for me and e-mail me job possibilities. Finally I saw a posting for at a gallery that I was a HUGE fan of. This gallery also happened to represent one of my professors at MICA. My professor put in a word for me, and then the Director of Clampart made a phone call and explained all the work I did for him. And Voila! I am now employed and I'm doing something I love- and getting paid for it! If it wasn't for all that I learned a Clampart, as well as the connections I made, my fate today would a very different one.