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Research & Insights / Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Worksite Experiences: Community Music Center of Boston

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Worksite Experiences: Community Music Center of Boston

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.

A central factor in the success of the 2020 Boston BAI program was the strong worksites and work-based projects for the interns. The staff and supervisors at the 11 arts and culture institutions that hosted the interns provided thoughtfully planned work experiences that engaged the interns with interesting projects and responsibilities. The following is an example of a meaningful worksite experience. 

Community Music Center of Boston

Community Music Center of Boston (CMCB) is an arts education nonprofit with a mission to transform lives by providing equitable access to excellent music education and arts experiences. Serving over 4,000 students in their programs weekly, CMCB has programs in most neighborhoods in Boston, in-school, after-school, and in the summer.

From their experience in the 2019 pilot year, CMCB planned their 2020 internships with added intentionality and thoughtfulness to complement other BAI components. For example, key staff leadership began discussing how students could best fit into CMCB’s workflow 2-3 months prior to the program starting. They wanted their internships to be more student-centered and the structure for the intern positions were conceptualized with this in mind. They carefully planned what the interns would be working on but they also wanted to remain flexible so the work was built around each individual intern’s skills, interests and desired areas of growth.

During this time, CMCB was completing a strategic planning process, which included reflection on the topic of youth voice which was timely for the BAI design, according to Morgan Beckford, COO:

Going through the strategic planning process had us turn up the dial on the need for more youth voice in our programming. It gave us the opportunity to discuss with the young people what worked and didn’t work for them in their schools and this factored into the experience we planned for the summer.

Building off the organization’s CYD approach to working with young people, CMCB built in a regular weekly time for their 4 interns to meet and work with one another on a specific project. This time seemed to increase their engagement at work, giving more opportunity for their voices to be heard and for them to work as a team. At the conclusion of each 1.5 hour meeting they completed a project or task and saw a piece of work through to its completion.

Another key success factor for the summer was having 4 staff supervisors involved in the program. This model allowed each to take 1 week and meet with the 4 interns to share how they approach their work and what they like best about their work. This structure enabled the interns to access more adult mentors and observe that, as Morgan said, “while the 4 supervisors differed in their perspectives, they all have careers in art administration because they love their art.” CMCB staff reported that this model of shared responsibility worked well for the team and allowed for more efficient division of staff time.

CMCB staff also spent time thinking about the types of work they wanted the interns to carry out and thought about the projects that young people might be particularly well-positioned to complete. All 4 interns had tasks that incorporated technology, including building websites and creating videos describing CMCB’s registration process. BAI Intern Zorely built an online website with the goal of offering a place for students to connect more to their teachers and classes. She built the site using a google web platform with which she had prior experience.

From Zorely’s perspective, this was one of her best work experiences. She felt that the staff treated her with respect and listened to what she had to say. She reported that their goal was to have good communications with everyone, giving her the space to be herself and be comfortable asking questions. One of her favorite aspects of the internship was being part of the staff discussions at staff meetings. She felt the staff listened to the interns and were given the space to talk, and feel included. 

They did a really good job of making us feel like we were part of the team and not just somebody on the screen.

Coming up in the next blog, Worksite Experiences: Urbano Project