Museum Fellows Term

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Museum fellows

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Program Description

Bennington College launched the Museum Fellows Term in January 2015 with a pilot grant from the Mellon Foundation, and now runs this New York City-based program in partnership with the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. The Museum Fellows Term is a five-month, study-away program that spans both Field Work and Spring Terms each year, providing students with an intensive, immersive experience and learning opportunity that is rarely available at the undergraduate level. The Museum Fellows Term 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
  • Individual mentors 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 and Elizabeth Smith, executive director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, as well as with their museum supervisors. In addition, each Fellow is paired with a professional mentor outside of their institution, with whom they meet on a monthly basis, based on the students’ interests and goals.

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. As a group and individually, Fellows visit dozens of sites all around around New York City, experiencing exhibitions first hand 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.

Skills and Information

A five-month internship at a major museum 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. Museum partners over the first four years have included the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the Moving Image, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

For students who wish pursue careers in museums, 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 outside of the classroom.

The Museum Fellows Term Experience play video
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The Museum Fellows Term Experience

Eligibility and Application

Frankenthaler Fellows are accepted for participation in the spring of their junior year at Bennington. 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, writing, entrepreneurship, and public action.

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, and art and culture organizations, or related cultural work. Maturity, responsibility, independence, and professionalism are essential.

Applications for the 2019 program will be due September 28, 2018. Interested students should contact Liz White for more information. 


Cost and logistics

Tuition and Financial Aid

Students enrolled in the Museum Fellows Term program pay their regular Bennington tuition, plus a $1500 program fee. Financial aid packages will continue to apply and students may be eligible for additional assistance. We want all students who are accepted into the program to be able to participate.

Room and Board

Program housing will be at the 92Y Residence and fellows will provide their own meals. 
Students enrolled in the program will not pay Bennington Room and Board, but will be responsible for the cost of housing at the 92Y. 
Double rooms will be standard, and students who wish to upgrade to a single may do so at additional expense. 
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 at the 92Y Residence. Students who have family in New York or wish to pursue other arrangements may be allowed to do so within certain criteria, however please note that  financial assistance with housing is only available for students living at the 92Y, and students opting out of the program housing will be asked to sign a waiver assuming full responsibility. 


An unlimited monthly MetroCard stipend will be provided, allowing transportation on subways and public busses, however students are responsible for paying their own travel expenses to and from New York.

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

Visit the Museum Fellows Program Facebook page.