Sorting through shelves of books while organizing the Institute of Contemporary Art archives, summer curatorial intern Min Park, a rising senior, discovered handwritten lecture notes by the late abstract artist Agnes Martin, one of her favorites. Park learned that Martin had an influential exhibition at the ICA that marked her return to the art scene after a long hiatus.
A fan of the museum since she was a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, this is just the kind of access and research Park was hoping for when she applied for the internship through Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.
“I thought it was really interesting how the ICA experiments with different approaches to exhibitions. They change their gallery space every exhibition to create a unique experience. They also work very closely with the artists and other collaborators,” says Park. “The ICA had numerous exhibitions in the past to showcase the works of contemporary artists working or even developing in their career, so I really wanted to get to learn more about the institution.”
A history of art major pursuing minors in fine arts and cinema & media studies, Park returned to campus this summer for her senior year after her own hiatus, having taken a gap year at home with her family in Seoul. “I wanted to have a clearer idea of what I wanted to do in my final year at Penn and post grad,” she says. “I wanted to explore how I can continue my study outside of school and push my studies at my own pace through reading and personal projects.”
Robert Chaney, the Marc J. Leder Director of Curatorial Affairs, says the ICA has taken on a Penn summer intern for several years and has been grateful for Park’s contributions. The full-time, 10-week internship is part of the Summer Humanities Internship Program which provides a $4,500 award supported by the School of Arts & Sciences.
“The program has been great. We always end up with incredibly talented and dedicated students. Min is a continuation of that,” Chaney says. “She’s been excellent to work with, a good partner, and a problem solver, always efficient and resourceful.”
Although the majority of her time is spent working remotely from her Philadelphia apartment during the internship, she goes into the ICA building at 36th and Sansom streets regularly to work with books, images, and other materials in the archive. She’s also been taking notes at exhibition planning meetings in preparation for two exhibitions, “Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation” and “Outside In: Na Kim.” The museum, which is free to the public, has been closed for extensive renovations and will reopen on Sept. 17.
“It has been really cool to see how a show develops and how everyone is working together. The conversations that happen in those meetings have been educational and exciting,” she says. “They are working in collaboration with artists from all around the world. I’m excited to be involved in the process.”
Chaney says one of the most critical projects Park took on this summer was to recommend and develop an online platform for exhibition planning to streamline production schedules and cross-departmental deadlines. “She had great recommendations. She made it so much simpler for me,” Chaney says. “That was a great help to me and the ICA.”
She worked on several other projects as well, he says. “I try to make it varied,” he says. “We want to make sure the internship is enriching for the students, too.”
Park helped organize the ICA’s archive of digital images for easy access and sharing, as well as catalogued publications dating back to ICA’s earliest exhibition in 1963. “She made a great update to our book inventory. It was an important initiative,” Chaney says. “She’s been a very steady, very bright partner.”
When the pandemic hit, Park was in England on a semester abroad at University College London studying art history. She went home to Seoul and decided to focus on her own book, “Project Archive,” with 20 of her friends, many of them Penn students and recent graduates. Claire Shin, a 2020 Penn graduate of the College, was the publication designer.
Each created an artwork to express “home and memory and how we connect to one another,” she says. Ceramics, photography, essays, poetry—the works came in many forms. She had 450 copies printed and sold them, she says, donating the proceeds to the Korean nonprofit G Foundation to support teens from low-income communities.
“I wanted to reflect on how we think about history and how the archive can be used and reinterpreted and age over time, to think of it as a more dynamic, living thing, rather than something that’s static and written down and can never change,” she says.
She has had previous internships, with Cereal Magazine and the Francis Gallery in England and with the FLAG Art Foundation New York City. In 2019, she was awarded a Penn visual studies summer research grant to work on a project with Jackie Tileston, associate professor of painting and fine arts. This year she will be working as a research assistant to Kaja Silverman, the Keith L. and Katherine S. Sachs Professor Emerita of Art History.
Her future career is still to be discovered, Park says, but the educational and collaborative experience at the ICA has made an impression. “I’m very interested in the intersection of writing and art. I know I want to study more in art history, but I don’t know careerwise what that will transition into,” she says. “I’ll see.”