North Central College Fine & Performing Arts

Art Students Explore Careers at the Art Institute of Chicago

Published on 5/21/2019

Art students become docents to experience museum careers at the Art Institute of Chicago

Two North Central students learned first-hand how their art history majors could lead to museum careers, thanks to a partnership between North Central College and the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC).

Katherine Steffeter ’20 and Alyssa Kinzel ’19 participated in the Jobs at Art Museums program at the Art Institute, where they acted as docents one Saturday morning in February. Later that day they had the opportunity to attend informational sessions about museum-based internships and careers.

Steffeter is an art history major who also restores and sells vintage dolls. As a docent, she spoke about Head of a Pharaoh, a basalt sphinx located in the museum’s ancient art gallery.

“I spent most of my time talking about Ptolemaic art styles, cultural trends and historical happenings,” says Steffeter, who recently returned from a study abroad trip to Ireland, where she visited the National Museum of Ireland. “I had a lot of engaging conversations with the people who stopped by, and I was really proud afterwards. By the end of the day I had proven to myself that I could do it!”

Real-world art history experience

Assistant Professor of Art History Lindsay Shannon nominated the students for the program based on the quality of their coursework and relevant research. “It was a valuable experience for them to talk informally about art outside of the classroom,” she says. “They found ways to connect people of all ages and knowledge levels with the art. They also learned a lot by observing how the museum displayed various pieces, and how those pieces related to the other objects in the space.”

The College is a member of AIC’s University Partner Program, which provides all North Central undergraduates with free admission to the museum’s collections, archival materials, lectures and performances 362 days a year. “It’s a wonderful program,” says Steffeter. “There's no way to see everything at the Art Institute in one day. When admission is free, it’s easy to return again and again. And you don’t have to be an art history major to enjoy it. Looking at art gets all the cogs in your head turning so you can’t help thinking about style, history, narrative, emotion, and all kinds of other things.”