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2021 interns reflect on “unique opportunity” with Arts Internship Program

Arts Internship ProgramIn 2010, Milwaukee Recreation launched the Arts Internship Program to provide high school students with practical job experience in arts-related positions.

The Arts Internship Program was created to give students additional opportunities to connect with art outside traditional school hours. The program’s unique model in the Milwaukee area has created a network of local arts organizations and established a new generation of young people seeking careers in the arts.

“The Arts Internship Program addresses the need for diversity in the creative fields, both locally and nationally,” April Heding, Milwaukee Recreation’s Arts & Humanities supervisor, said. “Interns gain experience in fields such as arts education, marketing, social media, and arts administration, and gain training in career exploration, financial literacy, job expectations, and goal-setting.”

For many students, these internships serve as their first paid job experience.

“It was the first arts-related position I'd ever gotten paid for, which was really cool” Asia Steele, a 2021 intern with Wild Space Dance Co., said. “It was a bit crazy that I was getting paid to do something I really enjoyed that much.”

The Arts Internship Program continues to provide more opportunities for the community each year, as the number of interns, host organizations, wages, and dollars earned have grown throughout the history of the program.

Thirty-one organizations have participated in the program since 2010. The arts interns make it possible for these groups to execute their summer programming, such as summer camps for children, public murals, and community events. Steele raved about being a part of the development for the young participants at the Wild Arts Summer Camp.

In 2021, Milwaukee Recreation partnered with 12 arts organizations for this program who combined to host 40 interns this summer. During the history of the program, Milwaukee Recreation has now served over 500 total interns. 82 percent of the interns are people of color. High school students have collectively earned more than $450,000 from nearly 55,000 hours of work in the Milwaukee community.

“At a young age you can't always find arts jobs. You mainly see teenagers working in retail or fast food, so this is a much more unique opportunity,” Steele said.

In a continuation of last year’s hybrid virtual and in-person internship process, each student supplemented their day-to-day internship tasks by submitting a series of reflections based on several prompts, including "A Day in the Life of...," an interview with an arts professional, and a takeaway from their internship experience. Interns had the choice to submit a video or written content, and were encouraged to flash their creativity! You can view each intern’s submission here.

As the program continues to flourish, more and more students will exit the program with the skill set needed to bring fresh voices to the creative field.

“Interning is very important to get used to having responsibility and being a leader,” Lily Haasl, a 2021 intern with the Wild Space Dance Co., said. “It is also so very important to get involved with opportunities that involve your career choice. It helps to decide if this is truly what you want to do.”

Milwaukee Recreation’s Arts Internship Program is a finalist for the Milwaukee Awards for Neighborhood Development Innovation (MANDI), in the Chase Economic Development Award this summer. Award winners will be announced at the 22nd Annual MANDIs during a virtual event on Thursday, Aug 19.

The community is also eligible to vote for the Wells Fargo People’s Choice Award, which is awarded to the three highest vote-getters! The winning organizations receive $1,000 to support their programs. Voting begins on Aug. 6 and ends Aug. 16 at 11:59 p.m.

You can vote for the People’s Choice Award here!

“I highly encourage other high school students to do this internship. Networking is very important, and the more you do, the more experience you have. [This internship] also was very fun and enjoyable,” Haasl said.


Stephen Davis, Media Relations Manager
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