Student connects audiences to art through Boston museum internship

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St. Olaf student Taylor Davis ’16 outside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, where she is interning this summer.

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, home to one of the most comprehensive collections in the world, welcomes more than a million visitors each year.

And this summer St. Olaf College student Taylor Davis ’16 is working to ensure that those visitors get the most out of their experience.

As part of her internship at the MFA, which is supported with a grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, Davis is helping facilitate the museum’s various educational programs. This includes special museum tours for toddlers, art-making activities for children and their families, and drawing in the museum galleries for adults.

“Helping run these programs has given me valuable insight into the behind-the-scenes work of museum programming, and has allowed me to observe how diverse audiences interact with and respond to the collections of the MFA,” Davis says.

The MFA’s encyclopedic collection includes nearly 450,000 works of art, ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts and French impressionist paintings to the largest and finest collection of Japanese art outside Japan.

Beyond educating children and guiding visitors, Davis is also working with the museum’s Head of Gallery Learning, Brooke DiGiovanni Evans, to create an Art Connections Card for MFA’s younger visitors. Art Connection Cards are self-guided activity sheets that children and their families can pick up at the museum to help guide their visit.

“The theme of my Art Connections Card will be bugs. I’ll be guiding children on a hunt for bugs depicted in artworks from several different cultures, including an ancient Egyptian heart scarab and a tiny gold beetle on a 17th-century German automaton,” Davis says.

The world of fine art is an essential part of this Tallapoosa, Georgia, native’s life. An art history major at St. Olaf, Davis will be conducting independent research about “Art and Feminisms” this fall.

Her passion for working at an institution like the MFA has grown as she has learned more about museum education, a branch of museum operations that she believes is one of the core functions of all museums.

Davis says she is constantly inspired by both the people with whom she works and by the artworks and exhibits she is able to experience at the MFA. This inspiration has, in turn, enhanced her interactions with the museum’s diverse visitors.

“Undoubtedly, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I absolutely love museums,” Davis says. “I knew I loved them as a visitor. But the opportunity to work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has shown me that I love being part of what makes it all work even more.”