Basket selection from the Coe Center, 2021


These past few months I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to hold an Internship at the Coe  Center for the Arts. As someone who’s been trying to make decisions about my education, I came to appreciate my time here. I was attending an art school in Florida as an illustration major before COVID. Like many, my plans were put on pause, and I found myself rethinking my next steps. I had decided to take a few years off of school. I came to New Mexico to visit my aunt for the fall. When she suggested I do this internship,

I was happy to be reintroduced into the arts. I have always enjoyed the process of creating art. The way the images seem to float within your head, translating those ideas to paper and putting in the careful decisions to bring about a creation that reflects a small part of you. Walking amongst the objects of the Coe Center, I asked myself, what has the artist reflected by these creations that have lasted for years, perhaps centuries? Each piece has its personality, its own story to tell. I began to appreciate the careful work it takes to steward these creations from all across the world so they can be shared and appreciated.

Irene Desmoulin (Odawa), Cottage, 2000. For more information click the image.

This internship allowed me to readjust my view of the art industry. As an illustrator, art has always been a way for me to observe the world around me. It became a way to translate my thoughts on what I read, watched, or thought. You can get caught up in what you create. At the Coe, I was given the chance to work with pieces from the past. You can begin to see the translations of what the artist observed around them, mostly using media that came from the earth naturally. During my experience, I came to love the work put into caring for a collection and it sparked my interest in museum studies. The staff at the Coe showed me a wonderful example of how to work with pieces from other cultures and how to appreciate and engage with them. During my time at the Coe, I was able to research and immerse myself in the process of creating birchbark art and quillwork. So, as I begin the next steps in my education plan, I want to involve myself more in the study of art history.

One of the many things I appreciate about the Coe Center is its approach to engaging others with its collection. They use a hands-on approach that allows us all to connect with the objects. I feel fortunate to be able to look closely to understand the skill and design of these pieces. The staff at the Coe has been encouraging in helping me build the knowledge and skills it takes to preserve a collection. Working with the curator and collections manager there, Bess Murphy and Samantha Tracy, has been an unforgettable learning experience.

I will always value my time at the Coe Center as an intern; it is a place that I will always be happy to come back to. I’ve been blessed to work with such a knowledgeable and inspiring staff. These past few months have given me the chance to reflect on who I am as an artist and person. As I build up my career path, I feel very lucky to have an epiphany for the arts. It is a field that opens many questions about how we connect as people who come from different backgrounds. We can see things of the past that have survived to tell their own story and how it relates to us now in this century.

—Tess Smith
November, 2021

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