Drew Thomas '21 (left) and Declan McDermott '21 (right) are interning with MCLA's Institute for Arts and Humanities this summer.
Drew Thomas ’21 and Declan McDermott ’21 are working to promote MCLA’s Institute for Arts and Humanities this summer. As they enhance their skills in design and nonprofit administration, they’re both making an impact on the Berkshire community.
McDermott, a double major in theatre and arts management who by now has racked up extensive experience in performing arts, including internships and paid positions at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, applied to work with IAH to gain more experience in back-of-house work like grants and logistics. “I have a lot of professional experience in theatre, particularly, but not much arts management experience, so I wanted to build that repertoire,” he said.
Thomas, a design major, was ready to expand his portfolio and gain experience before graduation. “I really wanted to get my foot in the water to do something official and design related,” he said. “I’m also interested in educating, talking about diversity issues, equity, and everything the IAH stands for.”
Funded through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, MCLA-IAH works to strategically promote equity-centered change on campus and in the community by expanding access to area arts and humanities resources, catalyzing opportunities for interdisciplinary engagements, and advancing experiential teaching and learning practices in higher education.
Though their internship is virtual, the work is hands-on. McDermott and Thomas check in weekly with Erica Barreto, MCLA-IAH coordinator, to discuss projects and ongoing work, review drafts, and receive feedback. They’re currently collaborating on an extensive resource library that will offer equity-centered materials to the campus community, including faculty members looking to expand their curricular offerings. McDermott has started a social media presence for the Institute, and Thomas has been designing social media graphics, posters, fliers, and other materials that promote the Institute’s mission and the resource library’s materials.
“I feel like I really get to branch out and showcase my style and skills,” said Thomas. “And for people to be able to see someone like me working in this position and contributing will mean a lot to other black men and women in the community. Especially on social media, people will see something I made and say ‘this black male designed this poster talking about a book that represents all these things about sexuality. Maybe he is affirming that we are all on the same side.’”
This summer, MCLA-IAH staff and interns have held implicit bias training, and after the registration filled up both McDermott and Thomas found themselves facilitating virtual breakout rooms to discuss participants’ experiences with bias. “I was nervous at first,” said McDermott. “Being 21, talking to people who are potentially directors of arts and culture orgs and facilitating for them—but it felt like people talking to people, which was really nice.”
“At first I wondered if I was qualified,” said Thomas, “but I did find that I did have experiences and was able to help people talk about those experiences too. That really meant a lot to me.”
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Are you an MCLA student, alum, or faculty member? Do you want MCLA to share your story? Please email Creative and Brand Strategy Manager Francesca Olsen at Francesca.Olsen@mcla.edu.