Thoughts From An Arts Commission Intern

From Aiden Layer, Intern, TN Arts Commission –

Hello there! I’m a junior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Human & Organizational Development and Studio Art, and for the past semester, I have had the great privilege of interning for the Tennessee Arts Commission. I chose to intern at the Commission for a pretty simple reason—I was excited by their mission statement, “to cultivate the arts for the benefit of all Tennesseans and their communities,” and I wanted to be a part of working towards that goal. The essential role that the Commission plays in developing vibrant and creative Tennessee communities cannot be overstated, and I know this to be true from personal experience.

Even before I started at the agency, it had already had an enormous impact on my life through the amazing work of their grantees. From growing up in Morristown, TN, and taking summer art classes at the Rose Center, to attending every exhibit at Frist Art Museum since I moved to Nashville, having access to the arts has made such a positive impact on my life and on my journey as an artist. The arts have the great potential to inspire, heal, and empower, which is why I am proud to say that I have worked for an organization that does so much to foster the arts throughout rural and urban areas.

When I first started, I was told that “the staff here move mountains,” and after interning for a semester I can confirm: yes, they really do. They are incredibly motivated and thoughtful, and I have found it very interesting to learn about everything that everyone does. Throughout this semester I have had a front-row seat to the many various activities of the Commission, everything from Arts Advocacy Day to grant panels, from budget hearings to Poetry Out Loud, and from gallery installation to preparations for the upcoming Design Thinking Conference in June. It has been an eye-opening experience to witness all the different and sometimes behind-the-scenes ways that everyone contributes towards the same mission of cultivating the arts.

While at the Commission, I have had the joy of working with Krishna Adams, the Visual Arts, Craft, Media, and Design, to help manage some of the agency’s permanent collection. This semester I have been working to organize materials related to the International Ceramic Symposiums that the Commission sponsored in the 1970’s and 80’s. These Symposiums brought dozens of ceramic artists from around the world to Tennessee for a month-long exchange of ideas and creation of a diverse collection of ceramic work. This project has involved researching and writing biographical entries on the Symposium artists for the agency website, digitizing and organizing the archive of primary source Symposium materials, collecting oral histories from a handful of the still living artists and producing videos about their experiences, and taking photographic records of the ceramic works where they are housed at the Tennessee State Museum. One story I will share from this interesting project is that when I have interviewed the artists who participated in the Symposium, I always ask them what impact the Symposium had on their life now that they are able to look back and see things in perspective. Every artist I have spoken to has said that Symposium was extremely important and transformative in terms of developing their art or in furthering their careers and are extremely grateful for their time there. This is just one example of the long-term impact that the Commission has on its communities.

I’d like to thank all the staff for letting me join you this semester; I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of the team even if only for a few months. I wish you all and the Commission the best for years to come. And a quick message to any potential future interns out there, I highly recommend that you apply, because this organization is something special.

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