At her 1985 retirement, after 20 years as founding director of the Arts & Business Council (ABC), Sybil Simon chose as her legacy a program which helped diversify the nonprofit arts sector. This program took the form of The Multicultural Arts Management Internship Program. It became an overwhelming annual success, attracting hundreds of applicants from across the United States, thanks to ABC’s partnership with Con Edison.
This summer, 11 interns were selected to work in areas such as fundraising, marketing, programming, audience development, and finance for ten weeks. Based upon their personal interests, the interns are paired with theater and dance companies, arts service organizations, music festivals, museums, etc. Organizations chosen to participate entrust the Arts & Business Council of New York (ABC/NY) to interview all intern candidates and conduct the placement.
Supervisors at the arts organizations provide support in terms of creating an interns project (examples: assigning them to spearhead a marketing initiative for a festival or research prospective donors for a new capital campaign) and providing professional guidance for the eager students. Con Edison’s generous support lavishes interns with a $2,500 stipend (a rarity in the arts sector!).
The internship is not only unique because it promotes cultural diversity while empowering interns to take a significant role in their organizations, but also because business mentors are granted to the interns. Con Edison doesn’t just bestow financial support to our organization—they are personally involved by assigning staff as mentors. The mentors collectively represent alternative involvement in the arts, should the interns choose to work in business—they are patrons, donors, and board members—all excellent examples of our sector’s desired audience.
The business mentors attend events, take interns to coffee, visit their organizations, invite interns to their office, and attend site visits (where students lead a tour of their organization and present the results of their summer project). Con Edison also hosts the entire program for an opening breakfast and closing dinner ceremony, where the host supervisors, business mentors, interns, and Arts & Business Council staff come together to celebrate the program and reflect upon the summer.
Here’s a video of some of the interns and mentors in action:
The ABC/NY intern events this year included attending The Jimmy Awards at The Minskoff Theatre (the National High School Musical Theater Awards in honor of famed Broadway producer, James Nederlander); a gathering for Clybourne Park, the Tony Award winner for Best New Play; and receiving a personalized tour of The High Line.
Donna Williams, head of the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, invited the program to discuss networking and community outreach. Esther Jeong from Bloomberg LP (past ABC/NY intern and present business mentor) led a “Life After College” professional development workshop to discuss interviewing, resume building, and graduate school. These events are especially relevant considering that many of our interns have never lived in NYC—it’s special to the program to witness their broadening of interests developed throughout the ten weeks.
Interns end the summer with more confidence, better public speaking skills, and a host of networking contacts from attending the Con Edison events alone, not to mention the skills garnered from the actual internship at a nonprofit organization.
At our 2012 closing ceremony, one intern declared that her mentor had “so thoroughly aided her that she could never fully express significant gratitude.” Another intern proclaimed “my mentor showed me that it takes concentration, patience, and good ‘people-reading’ skills to be a strong networker, which is something I wish I had known before the internship!” Another mentor advised her intern to create business cards so that he could present himself in a professional manner when attending work related events.
These are just a few of the ways that Con Edison has influenced the interns, allowing them to thrive not just during the summer, but as they go into their final college years and beyond.
ABC/NY is fortunate to have found not just a funder, but a true partner in Con Edison, and we look forward to many more years of coming together to promote the arts and create new advocates for the nonprofit sector.
(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!)