“Navigating the Art Career Spectrum: A Dream Confirmed”: Interview with a Reynolda House Intern

Name: Chris
School: University of Richmond
Major & Graduation Year: Art History with concentration in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2005
Additional Education: University of Virginia, MA & PhD in History of Art & Architecture
Internship Tenure: August 2005-2006
Current Position: Bev Perdue Jennings Associate Curator of American Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Past Career Experiences: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Making art an educational focus might have been a sure thing for Chris when he joined the Reynolda House Education Department as an intern—but he still craved experiential career learning before launching a full-time career in art. “I was looking for a museum job because I decided that I wasn’t going to apply to graduate school straight out of college,” he shares. His interest in historic and contemporary American art made Reynolda House especially attractive.

Having previously done curatorial internships, Chris knew this education-focused, forward-facing position would offer a new perspective on the art world. While at Reynolda, Chris was tasked with outreach duties he’d previously never done, including giving tours of the house and the art collection to students ranging from kindergarteners to Wake Forest University students. “There’s no undergraduate course that I’m aware of that challenges you to go out there and talk about all these materials,” Chris said. “Whether it’s George Washington’s teeth at Mount Vernon or the Frederic Church painting at Reynolda, it’s critical how you communicate the information to your audience in person, in publication, or online—whether the audience is a seasoned visitor or someone coming to an art museum for the first time.”

Chris’s position at Reynolda accelerated some of his interests and the ideas that he pursued in graduate school. In addition, the art he encountered at Reynolda impacts his work today. Specifically, the Frederic Church painting The Andes of Ecuador has made appearances throughout his career. In 2021, he organized an exhibition for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) and borrowed a painting from Reynolda House. “The painting was even on the cover of the catalog. It was a nice little homecoming for me,” he shares.

One memory from his time at Reynolda that’s still salient was an event called “Moving Pictures,” which discussed early American film and its relationship to painting at the time. “Today, one of the things we’ve been talking about at VMFA is having things like film and music in our galleries—which are almost never featured in permanent art collections. But Reynolda House was embracing it,” Chris says.

Chris believes there’s no need to have an artistic background—just be a fan of art—to intern at Reynolda House believing that different perspectives bring more creativity and further the discipline. He is a strong advocate for non-art history majors considering internships at Reynolda House. “There is a spectrum of museum careers for various interests, backgrounds, and majors,” Chris said. “I have a whole team of colleagues who are scientists and chemists working in the conservation lab. Education alone is its own field and that could have all sorts of impacts.”

Today, Chris has a doctorate in the history of Art and Architecture—and recognizes how pivotal his time at Reynolda House was for him to do more than soak up the professional working environment, “It was also an important moment after undergraduate to decide what it was that I wanted to do as my next step—to really see that yes, it is American art that I want to do.”

Interested in interning with Reynolda House? Apply for the fall program here.

Paid internships at Reynolda House for the year 2023 are supported by the Wells Fargo Foundation.