Bringing the Museum Experience Online
Through the REAL program, Studio Art major Shae Kennedy ’21 participated in a virtual internship where she created fun art activities for kids and their families to do online.
by Sarah Stoddard ’23
Even in a world that has switched to primarily virtual interaction, it is still possible to do meaningful work in the arts and engage with the community. Shae Kennedy ’21 (Studio Art) proved this last summer during her internship at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. Her internship, which was funded by the REAL program, allowed her to bring the museum experience to a virtual setting and connect with kids and their families across the Bay Area.
The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles is “a museum that really focuses on community interactions,” Kennedy explains. And it was her job to foster engagement by creating artistic activities for kids to do with their families at home. These activities related to textiles, holidays, themes of the week, and other fun topics. She often used the museum’s quilt archive to find quilts with interesting patterns and would make them into coloring pages for the kids or put together activities that kids could do with materials found around their house—all available to download from the museum’s website. The work Kennedy did had a great impact on the local community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The artistic activities she created for kids and families acted as a means to facilitate community engagement and continue the museum experience even though in-person interaction wasn’t possible.
At Santa Clara University, Kennedy has completed many arts related classes as a Studio Art major, but she never had direct experience with textiles before her internship. At the museum, she quickly learned how diverse and interesting textiles can be. “There are so many contemporary applications available to bring talented textile artists to new audiences,” she says. Additionally, the museum connected textiles to contemporary issues such as gender norms in the arts, the Black Lives Matter movement, sustainability, and more. Kennedy was inspired by this intersection of the art form with themes of justice. “While [the museum] had this very traditional and maybe old-fashioned form of art or art material, they made it modern and connected it to today’s important social issues,” Kennedy says.
Kennedy was also able to find ways to incorporate relevant issues into her activities for kids and their families. “I work best when I have something motivating my work”, she says. “Environmental protection and sustainability are important to me and to today’s society so those add a lot of fuel to my work.” Kennedy translated these passions that drive her personal artwork to her internship by incorporating small lessons about sustainability and the environment into her activities for the children. For example, in one activity, she had them recycle an empty chip bag by finger knitting it into a snake.
After graduation, Kennedy is unsure what path her career will take. But her internship experience gave her great insight into what working at a museum is like, and she says this could be a possibility for her future. “Right now, I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I do still love textiles, and I think the internship only encouraged my love for them,” she says. Perhaps one day, Kennedy will have her own artwork displayed in a museum.
Regardless of where she ends up, Kennedy says the key is finding your passion. “The REAL program is really great about working with you and being there to help you get the best experience you possibly can that fits your interests,” she explains. To other students who are majoring in Studio Art, Kennedy gives the following advice: “Trust your gut and what makes you happy, because at the end of the day, that will lead you to enjoying what you’re doing and being successful.”
About the REAL Program
The REAL Program provides paid experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences. Developed to allow students to discover their interests, gain a rich understanding of a particular field, discern their career goals, and explore future employment fields, the program has distributed nearly $1.7 million to more than 300 students across all majors since its inception in 2018. Placements range from non-profit and community service organizations to research labs, governmental organizations, and beyond. Learn more at www.scu.edu/real/.