The Fisher Museum of Art would host Students with USC Museums’ shadow program, said club president Elise Griffin. The club aims to give students hands-on experience within the professional art world.

Students with USC Museums demystifies art

Club leaders hope to forge working relationships with the University’s museums.
ByKimberly Aguirre

Searching for more opportunities, she came across one student organization that held the same mission as her — to create undergraduate museum opportunities. Much to her dismay, the group became inactive in 2016.

“I didn’t feel like I had a lot of opportunities that I could grasp,” Griffin said. “So I decided to make my own.”

Students with USC Museums plans to host panels and alumni events, so students interested in pursuing a career in art curation can learn from professionals. Griffin hopes to begin a shadow program with Fisher where students spend the day following curators to “expand their knowledge and see if this is something they really want to pursue.”

Griffin hopes to give others the hands-on experience she had with her internship at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Gallery 400, which solidified her desire to work in the museum industry.

“​​I see in museums this history of humankind right in front of me, this history of human desire and taste,” Griffin said. “It’s so amazing to have these objects and to have these paintings that lived so long ago and that continue to live and that are going to flourish so much after I’m gone.”

As president of the club, Griffin enlisted the help of associate professor of art history Hector Reyes, who now serves as the group’s faculty sponsor. Reyes’ teaching practice aims to create a more meaningful relationship between the University’s museums and its students. He sees the forging of bonds as especially important in the “radically changing” museum field. 

He hopes the club will give “a lot of different types of students, students who don’t necessarily have access to art or to museum spaces,” a way into the typically exclusionary field.

“The aim and mission of the group is to demystify and make art more accessible and to help students to trust their own experience with art,” Reyes said. “We need to open up what might be some types of very rigid understanding of art collecting and art curation, to open it up to involve lots of different types of people and lots of different types of experiences.”

Kassandra Arroyo, a senior majoring in art history, shared Griffin’s frustrations with the lack of hands-on opportunities for art history students at USC. Similarly, with all of L.A. County competing for only a few spots, internships can be particularly competitive for art history students, she said. The pair met in an art history class the previous semester, and Arroyo became vice president of SUM to help create more engagement with Fisher and the Pacific Asia Museum.

“One of our principles is making the museum space more accessible to USC students,” Arroyo said. “It’s a lot just about education, about educating new people who are also interested in museums and people who are already interested in them.”

Before officially starting the club, Griffin went through what she described as the “brutal” recognized student organization application process, but ultimately, the club was a victim of the Campus Activity’s RSO pause.

“[Not being an RSO] provides us a little bit of a disadvantage, but we’re still going to work as an organization; we’re still going to put on events; we’re still going to do it,” Griffin said. “We’re just going to be a little more self-funded.”

Despite the lack of funding, the club has since amassed over 100 members. SUM invites members to attend weekly meetings where they can learn from professionals, form friendships with fellow art-loving students and engage more thoughtfully with L.A.’s art scene.

“I want to be surrounded by people who love art and who love to educate others on what they’re passionate about,” Griffin said. “Having the ability to do that in an organization form now is just surreal to me.”