Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Connecting Artistry to the Workplace

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

BAI Boston 2020 Logo and Design Mockups from BAI Interns

Empowering interns to express themselves through their art provides a safe space to form relationships with peers, mentors, and colleagues. This self-expression fosters their development not only as artists but as young professionals as they begin to connect their skills through the arts with relevant career skills.

Using arts as a theme encouraged and promoted interns to “share their best selves”, find commonalities with one another and with their worksite supervisors, and provided a platform for self-expression and youth voice.

The Boston BAI program builds on the best practice principles and characteristics of Creative Youth Development (CYD), which see young people as active agents of their own change, with strengths and skills to be developed and supported. 

Each week began with the interns attending a Monday morning 30-minute zoom group check-in led by EdVestors Internship and Program Coordinator, Jeremy Gooden. These gatherings set the tone for the week, with fun group activities, sharing of program logistical updates, and an easy, welcoming touchpoint for the interns as they started their week. At these sessions the interns shared their goals for the week and what they were looking forward to accomplishing at their worksites. The full cohort of interns also met every Friday in longer sessions that included additional group building activities that supported interns connecting with each other and building deeper relationships as a group. 

The interns reported at the end of the summer how close they had grown as a group and this connectedness developed to a large degree as a result of the Monday and Friday weekly meetings. Jeremy facilitated engaging and fun activities that allowed the interns to relax, be themselves and laugh together. Their creativity was a key part of the gatherings as the interns were encouraged to share their artwork with each other in addition to connecting over the shared experience of having remote summer internships through the program. Icebreakers, games and use of the chat function on Zoom to elicit quick responses to questions related to how they were feeling kept the sessions lively and allowed for maximum participation by the interns regardless of their personalities or comfort with using their cameras.

The program components explicitly created an experience that supported self-expression and youth voice: through the twice-weekly cohort zoom gatherings; the personal and professional coaching which encouraged interns to think of themselves as artists, youth leaders and network-builders; along with the strong worksite experiences and wrap-around supports. 

For example, while Sara saw herself as a visual artist, she reflected that she did not have as much time as she would like to focus on her art. Being part of the BAI program allowed for more of that.

“The BAI [cohort of interns] had a different dynamic because everyone was into art and it created an atmosphere that I liked, people in the program had a lot of good ideas [about their artmaking].”

The solid connections among the intern cohort started through the summer experiences and continued after the program ended with ongoing monthly “chill sessions” facilitated by the alumni council. These sessions were self-determined by intern alumni, and provide an example of how the skills the interns developed as program participants carried over into their experiences as alumni. As one alumni council member said, “Being in the program I learned how to be more comfortable talking to people I don’t know. It gave me confidence and as a council member I was able to help the newer interns by being someone for them to ask questions and get support.” 

An arts-based internship program can provide opportunities for participating interns to develop skills that are transferable and relevant across industries sectors. 

This lesson is relevant during an in-person program as well, however it is worth noting that the remote experience increased student exposure to digital products that are used across organizations regardless of industry sector. The interns gained familiarity and agility with tools that will likely become mainstays of the new workforce environment such as Zoom and other virtual communication platforms. They also gained specialized competencies such as website design, marketing (especially via social media), and how to utilize Microsoft Office or Adobe products for research, analysis, and presentation. Due to the remote format nearly all students completed their internship with a digital artifact of their skill development, which can be added to their e-portfolio, resumes, and LinkedIn profiles as they pursue new opportunities within and beyond the arts sector. 

As an example, Zorely had conversations with her supervisor, Morgan at CMCB, about her goals and identity as an artist. Zorely asked to learn about arts opportunities that she might pursue beyond performance. Zorely discussed with Morgan how music could fit into her future. She knows she can return to music in the future and that she can take the lessons learned from her training into any space.  She expressed that music is the source of her confidence, something that she leverages readily in her STEM internships (she is interested in studying bio-engineering) and public speaking. She was recently a student panelist  in the Boston PIC’s 2020 STEM Showcase.

Ziane at Urbanity Dance improved her customer service skills as a result of the outreach calls she made, gaining comfort in speaking to people via these phone calls. She also utilized and expanded her presentation skills, some of which she had developed through her school and church. This made her realize how knowledge gained in one place can be utilized in another. “I realized no knowledge is lost and it can be used to connect with people in different settings.”

BAI students gained and consistently demonstrated transferable competencies such as adaptability, collaboration, self-advocacy, networking, and creating your personal and professional brand. Based on alumni engagement of the 2019 and 2020 cohorts, BAI alumni leveraged their skills in architecture/digital fabrication intensives, website design, launched new businesses, and made intentional efforts to network for new opportunities using their connection to EdVestors. 

Coming up in the next blog, Final Thoughts. 

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.