Museum Fellows Term

Fellows standing in front of a sculpture on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum

Alex Da Corte, As Long as the Sun Lasts for the 2021 Roof Garden Commission at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, installation view. Photo credit: Liz White.

students speaking with gallerist at exhibition
students in class, sitting around a table with Elizabeth Smith, director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation
students at Christie's auction house, meeting with a specialist in Latin American art.
student with her internship supervisor
Fellows with Elizabeth Smith at the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation
student in the Doug Wheeler installation at David Zwirner Gallery
students watching a demonstration by an art handler
student working with artist Eve Sussman, Bennington alum
student photographing a mural by the street artist JR
students in conversation with internship supervisors at the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation
student speaking with artist during studio visit
students using interactive table at the Cooper Hewitt
Museum Fellows looking at a large freestanding painting
students look at exhibition of artworks by Bennington alum Tom Sachs
students listening to curator speak about art exhibition in community garden
students at an exhibition
Students playing dominoes at exhibition
2020 Museum Fellows with art collector and Bennington alum Laura Skoler and program director Liz White

Program Description

Launched in 2015 with a pilot grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and now run in partnership with the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, the Museum Fellows Term is a five-month, study-away program that spans Field Work Term and Spring Term, providing students with an intensive, immersive learning opportunity that is rarely available at the undergraduate level. The program includes:

  • Practical, professional internship experience working at a major cultural institution in New York City for five months
  • A supportive, small co-learning community facilitated by Bennington faculty
  • 360-degree view of the art world through readings, site visits, and interviews
  • Connection with cultural leaders, makers, and influencers in diverse fields of expertise
  • Mentorship and self-directed customization in accordance with students’ areas of interest

Mentoring and Growth

The Museum Fellows Term offers the advantages of study-away learning coupled with the small community, individual attention, and pedagogy of self-directed inquiry that students experience on campus. While in New York, Fellows work closely with program director Liz White, as well as program faculty and internship supervisors. In 2024 visiting faculty members include Antonio Sergio Bessa, chief curator emeritus at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation.

Experiential Learning and Connections

Bennington’s extraordinary network in the arts provides Fellows with access to art world leaders and professionals in diverse fields of expertise, offering learning opportunities as well professional connections. Fellows visit dozens of sites all around New York City, experiencing exhibitions firsthand and building familiarity with a broad range of creative practitioners, communities, and organizations including: museums, auction houses, commercial and nonprofit galleries, foundations, artists’ studios, performances, and public spaces. In addition to group site visits, each Fellow is matched with professionals outside of their internship institution for informational interviews related to their specific interests and goals. 

Skills and Information

A five-month internship at a major cultural institution provides an opportunity to gain significant experience in a highly competitive and largely opaque field. As they complete their day-to-day work and shadow supervisors, Fellows also conduct informational interviews with staff outside their immediate departments, and throughout the program are exposed to a diverse range of institutions and roles, offering an expanded sense of future possibilities, and new perspective on how they might direct their studies and ambitions. Internship partners to date have included the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Dia Art Foundation, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the Moving Image, the New Museum, the Rubin Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Queens Museum, as well as the Al Held Foundation, the Helen Frankenthaler Catalogue Raisonné project, Skowhegan, and LMCC.

For students who wish to pursue careers in museums and arts administration, these internships offer an essential first step, and for all students they provide valuable exposure to institutional cultures and cultivate transferable professional skills, including maturity, ambition, initiative, self-reliance, and the ability to communicate, collaborate, and build meaningful relationships. Whatever they choose as a next step, Fellows leave the program able to envision themselves as potential agents of influence, actively producing and shaping culture.

Courses and Community

In addition to their internships, Fellows meet as a cohort at the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation for three faculty-led courses:

  • Historical Perspectives, which examines the forces and individuals that have shaped the evolution of museums and other art institutions
  • Contemporary Art Contexts, which focuses on contemporary art exhibitions and the institutions/organizations that support and present the work, and
  • Research Colloquium, a framework providing practical support and critical contextual information in which students read about multiple aspects of the art world, and reflect on, and learn from each other’s experiences within different institutions and departments.

Context and Critical Thinking

Just as Bennington asks its students to understand themselves as individuals within a larger context, the Museum Fellows Term supports the study of art not only as a form of individual expression, but as work that participates in larger social structures. Through the interwoven elements of the program, Fellows are encouraged to think critically about art and its institutions and to engage with the complexity of diverse perspectives. Fellows become both participants in and observers of the art ecosystems of New York, making connections across multiple forms of experience and gaining confidence, skills, and the ability to construct meaningful inquiries both inside and outside of the classroom.

The Museum Fellows Term Experience play video
Close Video

The Museum Fellows Term Experience

Eligibility and Application

The program is designed for any and all students who are interested in understanding how culture is made and shaped. While many previous Fellows list visual arts and art history as primary areas of study, the program benefits students with a wide variety of interests and goals. Recent Fellows have also had Plans related to performing arts, film, social sciences, languages, literature, cultural studies, philosophy, writing, entrepreneurship, and public action.

Frankenthaler Fellows are generally accepted for participation in the spring of their junior year at Bennington; other circumstances may be considered on a case by case basis. Successful applicants are expected to have an excellent academic record, and to have a demonstrated interest in art history, cultural studies, curatorial practice, arts and culture management/ leadership, art education, community outreach, museums, galleries, art and culture organizations, or related cultural work. Maturity, responsibility, independence, and professionalism are essential.

Interested students are encouraged to complete this brief form to be added to the program mailing list, and to discuss their interest with their advisors and plan committees as soon as possible. Applications for the 2025 program are due at the start of the Fall 2024 term, and an information session will be held over Zoom in April. Note that applications require a cover letter, resume, and writing sample, in addition to the online application form, and students are required to meet with the FWT office to review their materials before submitting. The financial aid application for the program will also be due in September. For more information, please contact Liz White

Cost and Logistics

Tuition and Financial Aid

Students enrolled in the Museum Fellows Term program pay their regular Bennington tuition, plus a $1,500 program fee. Financial aid packages will continue to apply and students may be eligible for additional assistance. 

Bennington will review all financial aid applications received, giving funding priority to those students with demonstrated need, and making best efforts to provide financial aid packages that enable all accepted students to participate. Students should anticipate that the family contribution will remain the same as with previous semesters. Outstanding balances should be resolved before student eligibility can be reviewed for any additional aid for program related expenditures. Supplemental MFT aid will only be awarded to cover additional costs of participating in the program. As with other financial aid decisions, all sources of income, including earnings from paid internships, are considered in the financial aid decision.

Estimated expenses for the 2024 Museum Fellows Term program are detailed here.

Students may apply for financial aid for the Museum Fellows Term program by submitting an application to the Office of Financial Aid.

Room and Board

Program housing is offered through the College, and fellows provide their own meals. 
Students enrolled in the program will not pay Bennington Room and Board, but are responsible for the cost of program housing.
Students with demonstrated financial need may be eligible for assistance with housing and meal costs.
Living and commuting as a group adds to the program experience and we encourage all students to live in program housing. Students who have family in New York or wish to pursue other arrangements may be permitted to do so within certain criteria, however please note that financial assistance with housing is only available for students living in program housing, and students opting out of program housing will be asked to sign a waiver assuming full responsibility. 


Students are responsible for paying their own travel expenses to and from New York.

Students with demonstrated financial need may be eligible for assistance to cover the cost of a monthly MetroCard (which allows transportation on subways and public busses). 

Museum Admission

Staff ID cards from host institutions will allow free access to almost all museums.

Additional Program Expenses

The purchase of several books will be required and clothing appropriate to a professional office environment is expected (to be discussed in orientation). 

Additional Information

Reach out to Liz White with questions, and for details about upcoming information sessions and deadlines.

About the Director

Elizabeth WhiteElizabeth White is an artist whose work ranges in form from photography to digital collage, installation, drawing, and social practice. Informed by a background in sociology and media studies as well as visual arts, she is interested in the social impact of photography and related technologies and the politics of visual culture. She has been teaching at Bennington since 2011, and since 2015 has served as the founding director of the Museum Fellows Term program. 

Visiting Faculty

Antonio BessaAntonio Sergio Bessa

Visiting Faculty

Antonio Sergio Bessa is chief curator emeritus at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. A scholar of concrete poetry, Bessa has organized several critically acclaimed exhibitions on themes related to text-based art, and has published essays on concrete poetry. Photo credit: Elizabeth White

Elizabeth SmithElizabeth Smith

Visiting Scholar

Elizabeth Smith is Executive Director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. Previously, she was Executive Director, Curatorial Affairs, at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto; Chief Curator and Deputy Director of Programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Photo credit: Scott Rudd