2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.
Story by Awa Badiane ’21
When COVID-19 got in the way of a coveted internship this summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Shania Johnson ’22 was determined not to let the opportunity slip away.
The Lawrence University sophomore from Rosedale, New York, worked with her faculty advisors to create a fall schedule that will allow her to move the internship to the fall while keeping her classwork on schedule.
“In high school, I did an internship at the Met,” said Johnson. “And at the time I wasn’t really considering a career in art history, but that internship really opened my eyes to the art world, or the contemporary art world at least.”
But it wasn’t until her time at Lawrence that she realized that art history could be her potential career path.
“It made me start to think about art history and curatorial work as a career path,” Johnson said. “But I never really took it seriously until I got to college and I realized I can actually make a living out of it.”
For this summer, Johnson was accepted into the internship offered to college students by the Met. But due to COVID-19, The Met will not be reopening until the end of the summer season and has transferred its summer internships to the fall. Johnson created a plan with Lawrence’s Art History department that allows her to work the internship without falling behind on her course schedule.
“This internship was really selective, and I didn’t want to give it away because I have to be at school,” Johnson said. “So, I’ll be living in Midtown, working at the Met. And, I have worked it through with faculty here … so I’ll be getting internship credits and independent study credits for the research and work I will be doing.”
Johnson is excited to take on this experience with the knowledge she has gained during her time at Lawrence.
“In high school, I felt really insecure, coming from my background and working with some of these other people who come from more fortunate backgrounds,” Johnson said. “But I feel like now being away at college, and being who I am now, more confident, I am really excited for this opportunity.”
While at Lawrence, Johnson has been working closely with Beth Zinsli, the Wriston Art Center galleries curator, museum studies director, and art history professor.
“At first I did all the formal things like gallery guard,” Johnson said. “Then I got the internship position where I work with the objects in the archive.”
Through her internship with the Wriston, and now with the gallery being closed due to COVID-19, Johnson has been doing her own research that will directly connect with the research she will be doing in the fall.
“I have the chance to do my own research, so that’s been great,” she said. “The paper that I am writing is kind of uncharted territory and I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it, but it has turned into a pretty lengthy research paper talking about medieval abstraction. And the internship at the Met relates to global medieval art, so this is kind of my segue into the fall.”
A vision for change
Johnson hopes to one day join the museum world, providing leadership and curating exhibitions, helping to create more accurate narratives for diverse populations.
“The drive for me is, even today in the museum world, not a lot of people are represented,” Johnson said. “Not a lot of women of color or POC in general, and also not a lot of LGBTQ identities are represented. But I feel like people of color and LGBTQ identities should be part of the people who are making big decisions, curating exhibitions because you have the power to create narratives. When you create an exhibition, you are telling a story that you’re basically selling to people. And if people are not accurately represented the way they should be, that becomes a problem. I want to be able to create narratives for people like me, people from my background, so they can see themselves being represented the way they should be.”
Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.