Each spring, summer, and fall, the Vilcek Foundation welcomes a new cohort of interns to work with foundation staff and support the foundation’s programs and operations.
These internships give individuals early in their careers the opportunity to learn more about the way that nonprofit and philanthropic institutions operate in the service of their mission. Interns work under the direction of Vilcek Foundation’s programs, operations, communications, and art departments in support of the foundation’s outputs and initiatives. Internships typically last 10 weeks and interns receive hourly compensation; many interns continue on for extended internships past their initial period.
The Vilcek Foundation’s internship program was spearheaded by Vilcek Foundation Cofounder, Vice Chairman, and Secretary Marica Vilcek. Marica is passionate about the integration of practical education into curricula for personal and professional development. An art historian, Vilcek began working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1965; from 1974 to 1996, she served as associate curator in charge of the Accessions and Catalogue Department. Over the course of her tenure with the Metropolitan, Vilcek supervised and mentored dozens of interns as part of the museum’s high-school and college internship programs. A lifelong mentor, she has maintained meaningful relationships with many of these individuals as they have grown and developed in their careers; several have worked with the Vilcek Foundation as consultants and in the service of the Vilcek Foundation’s board.
“In a highly competitive job market, work experience and the opportunity to connect and engage with experts provides students and young professionals with the experience they need to succeed,” said Vilcek. “Our internships provide students interested in the arts and philanthropy with the ability to work directly with experienced professionals, and to develop skills by working on projects for the foundation.”
Added Rick Kinsel, president of the Vilcek Foundation, “Internships and mentorships have the power to shape careers, and they have a lasting impact on young professionals’ lives. The experiences that interns gain by applying their skills to supporting our foundation’s projects enable them to grow professionally, and to build a portfolio of work that they can share with future employers.”
The Vilcek Foundation’s relationship with interns doesn’t end when their internship comes to a close. Several interns have held extended internships with the foundation to support ongoing projects, with some being hired on as members of the Vilcek Foundation staff, growing and developing in the roles and responsibilities they take on with the foundation. Other interns remain in touch with the foundation, consulting on specific projects in their areas of expertise.
Christopher Vazan worked as an intern with the Vilcek Foundation in the Summer of 2014. “I grew up in an immigrant family and spent much of my adolescence torn between equally deep passions for science and humanities,” he said. “As such, the Vilcek Foundation’s mission is something that inspired me greatly then, as it does now.” Vazan has gone on to pursue a career in music. While his day-to-day is quite different now from the work he undertook while an intern, Vazan credits his experience as an intern with the Vilcek Foundation as providing him with a valuable lesson in the importance of a strong work ethic.
Dominika Andrasko was an intern with the Vilcek Foundation in the summer of 2008. During her internship, Andrasko conducted research on immigrant artists in the United States, and developed a database of immigrant artists including information about their biographies, lives, and work. The project provided Andrasko with insight into a variety of artists’ work, as well as to the work that goes into the management of a nonprofit arts program and gallery. Since her internship, Andrasko has worked as a theater producer and dramaturge. She founded and curated a live arts program with focus on performance art at an artist-run cultural venue in Prague.
Andrasko reflected on her experience in working with the foundation’s cofounders. “Marica and Jan Vilcek are the most inspiring people I have met,” she said. “Their commitment to moral principles, respect for every human individual, and devotion to furthering democratic values, especially in politically difficult times, has been an immense inspiration in my life.”
Phuong Pham also began her career with the Vilcek Foundation as an intern in the summer of 2008, working alongside Andrasko and other interns to develop the foundation’s database of immigrant artists in the United States. In January of 2010, Pham joined the foundation full time as an executive assistant. Pham took initiative to establish the foundation’s presence on social media and to develop multi-channel marketing strategies for the foundation’s events and prizes, transitioning into the role of communications coordinator for the foundation. “Because my roles at the Vilcek Foundation were ever-evolving, I learned a lot and enjoyed many aspects of my work,” said Pham. For two years, Pham also led the foundation’s programs team in the role of programs officer, overseeing the planning, execution, and promotion of the Vilcek Prizes.
Pham reflected on her experiences with the foundation: “Marica, Jan, and Rick were always supportive of my ideas and endeavors—providing valuable guidance while allowing me the autonomy to innovate,” she said. “One project that meant a lot to me was the discretionary staff grants. In recent years, the philanthropic sector is abuzz with the principles of trust-based philanthropy—calling grantmakers to give unrestricted funding, do our homework, simplify grant paperwork, and offer support beyond the check. … [O]ur staff grants … embodied all of these practices and values. … I learned to build relationships with grantees, asked what they needed, offered funding with transparency, and promoted their work for many years beyond the grant periods.” Pham is now the vice president of knowledge and communications at Southern California Grantmakers (SCG), where she leads a creative team that uses storytelling, design, and data to enliven the brand and mission of SCG.
Dr. James Deavenport began working with the Vilcek Foundation as a curatorial intern in 2009, before being appointed curatorial assistant. He worked with the Vilcek Foundation from 2009 to 2011 while completing his master’s at New York University. Deavenport credits his experience working with the Vilcek Foundation’s curatorial staff and art department as having a profound influence on his career, noting, “This background in research and analysis has really helped me to better understand and incorporate visual culture into my own graduate and professional research.” Following his internship and assistantship with the Vilcek Foundation, Deavenport completed his PhD in history with an emphasis in Latin American studies at the University of California, San Diego. He has maintained a close relationship with the foundation’s art department, and continues to provide insight on the foundation’s collection of pre-Columbian Art. This summer, the foundation will host an online exhibition curated by Deavenport featuring works of art from the Vilcek Collection, Transcendent Creations.
Seamus McKillop, registrar and manager of collections, exhibitions, and facilities at the Vilcek Foundation, began his career with the foundation as a summer intern in 2009 alongside Pham, Andrasko, and Deavenport while completing his undergraduate degree. Upon graduation, McKillop assumed a full-time position with the foundation. Over the past 10 years, McKillop has grown in his role, becoming the foundation’s registrar in 2014 and assuming his current title in the spring of 2020. “Marica, Jan, and Rick have had a huge influence shaping my career from the moment I started at the foundation,” he said. “I am forever grateful for the guidance they have provided over the last 10 years.”
“It’s been rewarding to participate in and see Seamus’ growth and development with the Vilcek Foundation over the past decade,” said Kinsel. “From the expertise he has gained through his experience as registrar and manager of collections, to the professionalism with which he approaches all aspects of facilities management. He’s a vital – and valued – part of all of our foundation’s day-to-day operations.”
Similarly, Kayla Clifford began working with the Vilcek Foundation as an intern in January of 2019. Clifford brought a wealth of experience in video and creative production to their work with the foundation, providing valuable insight and support on the foundation’s creative projects and events. Their internship was extended through the summer of 2019, and Clifford was hired full time as the Vilcek Foundation’s creative programs associate in the fall of 2019. “While interning, I appreciated that the foundation staff made an effort to learn about my professional interests and goals,” said Clifford. “As an immigrant myself, the foundation’s mission is close to my heart, so I was delighted at the opportunity to not only to transition from an intern to a full-time employee, but to align my professional interests and goals with supporting the immigrant community in the U.S.”
Many interns who work with the Vilcek Foundation go on to work in fine arts management and nonprofit arts administration. Clotilde (Cloe) Cobbs served as an intern with the foundation in the summer of 2019. During her internship, Cobbs supported the foundation’s Art Department with logistical support and tours of the foundation’s exhibition of Ralston Crawford: Torn Signs. Cobbs credits the internship program with providing her with valuable insights into arts administration and management. “My internship at the foundation prepared me for my future career by giving me insight into the inner workings of an arts nonprofit,” she said. Cobbs is now employed with the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation as a catalogue raisonné researcher.
Anita Chen held an internship with the Vilcek Foundation in the fall of 2019 and winter of 2020. Now a creative planner and copywriter with Geometry, an advertising company in Shanghai, she appreciated the professional experiences and the guidance she received in her work at the foundation, following a presentation with the foundation’s programs team to the Vilcek Foundation’s Cofounders – Jan and Marica Vilcek – and to Kinsel. “I was able to learn about the process of nonprofit programming and the development of the foundation’s mission,” she said. “The presentation to the Vilceks and Rick at the end of the project was a very memorable experience. Their feedback and insight were very helpful.”
The Vilcek Foundation is enormously proud of all of our past interns’ successes, and is committed to improving the internship program so that it is as mutually beneficial as possible for interns and for the foundation.
“Each class of interns gives us feedback, and we are incorporating their thoughts to make the program more rewarding,” said Administrator Sophia Tedesco. Tedesco has partnered with Vilcek Foundation Programs Manager Julia Lo to improve the structure and management of the internship program moving forward. “Our interns take on real responsibilities at the foundation, especially in the prize program,” said Lo, “but we want to make sure they are having the most meaningful and memorable experiences we can foster.”
The foundation will launch the new internship program in the fall of 2021. Students and young professionals interested in applying for an internship are encouraged to sign up for the foundation’s mailing list, and to follow the Vilcek Foundation on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.