When Art Gives You Wings: Interview with a Reynolda House Intern

Name: Allison
School: Wake Forest University 

Major & Graduation Year: Communications, 2018
Internship tenure: July 2018-2019
Current position: Flight Attendant, JetBlue

When Allison came to Winston-Salem from Rhode Island, one thing she longed for was a sense of community. One thing she already had was a love for art, having grown up around the arts and going to museums. Just weeks after graduating from Wake Forest University, she joined the Reynolda House team as an intern with the Programs Department. With creativity as a bridge, she soon found herself at the center of the local community. 

“When I became a fellow at Reynolda House, I became a more connected member of the Winston-Salem community, which I didn’t necessarily feel as an undergraduate student.” 

Allison knows what it’s like to feel out of place—her parents emigrated from Jamaica, and she grew up in a predominantly white town in New England before moving to North Carolina to attend Wake Forest. Then and throughout her life she questioned where she belonged. This feeling extended into her initial interactions with museums—noting her first time walking into a museum and not knowing what to do. This made her wonder, “If I had had these experiences at a younger age, would I have gone into the museum field earlier?” 

Wanting to use her experiences to help others feel welcomed in the museum world, Allison recalls her intentionality behind working with Reynolda House on inclusion, hoping to open doors to more people becoming arts educators. “I don’t have an arts background, but I do have experience talking to people and recognizing what makes them feel uncomfortable in a space.” 

This desire to create a warm environment around art matched with visible socioeconomic divides within Winston-Salem allowed her to notice that a lot of the same parents were bringing their kids to events at Reynolda, such as the “Reynolda Read-Aloud” story time series for preschoolers. As the child of immigrants, events like this weren’t something her parents grew up doing. 

Thankfully, she was able to explore solutions to existing barriers of interest in museums through the support of the Reynolda staff. Reynolda House’s goal is to create an inviting experience so that a first-time visitor would never feel as though they shouldn’t have come.

Reynolda House also fulfilled professional goals for the then new graduate. She got to see the inner, day-to-day workings of an organization. This allowed her to feel integrated into the office culture. Allison also shared how the staff exhibited a culture of kindness, “I felt like I could go to people if I needed help. I didn’t have a car for a few weeks and coworkers would say, ‘Hey, I’m happy to drop you home.’ Things like that I don’t think I would have gotten if I were in a big New York City office.” 

This sense of support extended beyond art for Allison, “When the experience is great anything else pales in comparison.  With supportive coworkers, whether the conversation was about race or just general suggestions, I really had a voice at Reynolda House,” she remarks. 

Given Allison’s identity as a young Black woman, the value of the feeling of belonging is compounded, “I’m now less intimidated in professional spaces because I know that I have something to say that can be important.”

The program gave Allison a platform to let her voice resound beyond the walls of Reynolda House including leading a session at the Southern Art Museum Association’s yearly conference. Years later, after working at other art institutions and now building her career in aviation, Allison still looks fondly at how her personal goal of providing a sense of belonging along with her communication skills and love for art were shaped and fueled at Reynolda. She affirms, “So, even today as a flight attendant, my presentation skills and how I talk to people are based on my experience at Reynolda House and my start there.”

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.