Arts Intern – Venice – 2019 Biennale Arte

Arts Interns with students and families at the Venice Biennale viewing Martin Puryear’s Swallowed Sun (Monstrance and Volute), 2019

In 2019, Studio Institute had the unique opportunity to select eight college students to live and work in Venice over an eleven-week period, serving as gallery guides for Martin Puryear’s acclaimed exhibition, Liberty/Libertà, at the 2019 Biennale Arte, and conducting outreach activities in the local community. The Biennale Arte is a Venice-based, biannual, international art festival, the oldest, largest, and most prestigious in the world. Each year, dozens of nations curate exhibitions or shows that are exhibited in country-specific pavilions.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was made possible through a collaboration with the Madison Square Park Conservancy, whose proposal to curate the US exhibition was selected by the United States Department of State.

I’m going to miss this experience so much—interacting with people from all walks of life. The kids have had a profound influence on me; they are so brilliant and inspiring.

Amberrose Venus-Gordon

The Venice Arts Interns

Kel Burchette participated in Arts Intern – New York as a School and Family Programs intern at The Rubin, where she developed curriculum and differentiated K-12 workshops to make them more accessible for children with varying learning abilities. She is studying Visual Studies with minors in Art and Design History and Museum and Curatorial Studies at The New School. Kel has worked at multiple New York galleries, including the Craig F. Starr Gallery and R & Company.

Emma Ike participated in Arts Intern – New York as an Education intern at the Noguchi Museum, where she researched and created their new family guide for visitors. She is studying Fine Arts, as well as Art History and Museum Professions, at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Emma has continued working as an Education Assistant at The Noguchi Museum, and is also interning at the Judd Foundation.

Haley Kane is new to Arts Intern and Studio Institute. Her past experience includes a curatorial internship at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Stigler Archaeological Fieldwork Fellowship through Columbia University, in which she worked as an archaeological field assistant in Rome. She recently graduated from Barnard College with a degree in American Studies, and is an Executive Assistant at American Academy of Arts and Letters.

JP Peralta participated in Arts Intern – Cleveland as a Collections & Curatorial intern at The Sculpture Center where he researched, documented, and developed interpretive text for sculptures on their online database. He recently graduated from Case Western Reserve University, where he studied Art History and Theater. He currently works as a Gallery Teacher at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Nanase Shirokawa participated in Arts Intern – New York as an Education intern at the Frick Collection where she wrote and presented talks on their collection. She recently graduated from Williams College, where she studied Art History, and is a Program and Membership Assistant at the Architectural League of New York.

Louis Vaccara is new to Arts Intern and Studio Institute. He has worked at several galleries and organizations both in New York and abroad, including NYU’s Villa Ulivi Library in Florence. He recently graduated from New York University, where he studied Art History and Contemporary Culture. Louis works as a Sales Associate & Exhibition Coordinator at the Hal Bromm Gallery.

Amberrose Venus-Gordon participated in Arts Intern – New York as a Collections intern at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, where she helped curate a collection of objects for their main exhibition space according to the theme of “The Elements of Art.” She is studying Fine Arts, minoring in Art History and Museum and Gallery Practices, at Pratt Institute. Amberrose also works as a teacher’s assistant at Pratt’s Saturday Art School program.

Tamara Yakubova participated in Arts Intern – New York, also as a Collections intern at Brooklyn Children’s Museum, where she helped curate a collection of objects for their main exhibition space according to the theme of “The Elements of Art.” She is studying Architecture at Barnard College.


To prepare for this experience, the eight students studied Martin Puryear’s work by completing multiple readings on his work and viewing various talks and symposiums in which Puryear took part. Most essentially, the group was invited to the artist’s private studio and library in upstate New York, where they discussed the exhibition, as well as some of Puryear’s other works and interests.

Arts Interns discussing Martin Puryear’s work with Sharon Vatsky, Director of Education, School and Family Programs at the Guggenheim Museum (NY).

In the weeks leading up to their departure, the interns (all of whom had some museum or gallery experience in the past) met with museum professionals from the Guggenheim Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. The topics of these sessions included social and political issues in art exhibitions, and how gallery interpreters can guide viewers to form their own interpretations of an artwork through questioning.

Interns also met with Brooke Kamin Rapaport (Commissioner and Curator for the 2019 Biennale’s US Pavilion and Madison Square Park Conservancy’s Deputy Director & Martin Friedman Chief Curator), who provided the interns with crucial insight into the exhibition and artwork, as well as advice for interacting with guests at the Pavilion.

To prepare interns for the educational outreach component of their internship, interns worked with several of Studio’s experienced artist instructors to learn art instruction strategies in multiple mediums and for different age ranges. The artist instructors also advised students on how to properly prepare for a lesson and to lead fruitful discussions during classroom demonstrations and reflections.


Each group of four students spent six weeks (with both groups overlapping for one week) living in a Venice apartment, located between Saint Mark’s Basilica and L’Giardini della Biennale. While there, the interns immersed themselves in the culture and learned to navigate a city and region rich with history and art.

United States Pavilion
Martin Puryear: Liberty/Libertà

At the Pavilion, the interns served as gallery interpreters, engaging with visitors who had questions or comments regarding the exhibition and watching over the artwork. Over the course of the summer, the interns interacted with an international audience of casual visitors and art professionals.

Each visitor to the US pavilion brings something different, and each takes something different away. One of the most rewarding parts of this job is gaining a little bit of insight into how each visitor approaches a work and what they apply to it… Puryear’s work in this exhibition seems to ceaselessly lend itself to new interpretations for anyone willing to look.

JP Peralta

Spending this much time with Puryear’s work and discussing it with others gave the interns a deeper understanding and appreciation for it. This helped evolve their own relationship with the art and inform their educational outreach work.

Community Outreach – La Pietà

In their community outreach work, the students implemented a curriculum of art lessons that connected formally and thematically to Puryear’s work. They taught students at a historic Venice charity, Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà (or La Pieta), which traces its roots back to the 14th century. La Pieta works with vulnerable children and families, functioning primarily as a foster care facility.

Most of these children and young people had little or no experience with art making in a guided setting. Students became familiar with the work of Martin Puryear, as well as many other artists, as they explored a variety of media, including collage, sculpture, watercolor, drawing, digital illustration, and printmaking. As they did this, they discussed art ideas such as balance, design, collaboration, repetition, and the elements of art. They incorporated themes present in Puryear’s work, such as freedom, identity, and social issues.

The interns also led students on visits to the US Pavilion and other Biennale exhibitions in the city. After weeks of viewing and discussing the works of Martin Puryear and other contemporary artists, seeing the art up close had a clear impact on the students. This came through in their work. The Biennale has a large and palpable presence in Venice every two years, but attending these exhibitions was a first for all of these young locals.

The children and mothers consistently impress me with their innovative ideas… the way they combined shapes in the printmaking lessons recalled forms and motifs seen in Martin Puryear’s work: clear contours, textural shifts, and allusions that oscillate between familiar and abstract forms.

Nanase Shirokawa

Lesson Resources

If you’re interested in implementing lessons that tie to Martin Puryear: Liberty / Libertà, we hope you’ll download these free resources! Based on lessons developed for the children, young people, and adults at La Pieta, these include plans for three printmaking lessons and three sculpture lessons for a variety of age groups. You’ll also find lists of visual resources, sample artwork images, and reflection questions. All of these lessons encourage deep looking, thinking, and discussion of artworks, followed by a related artmaking component. See the lesson descriptions and download links below:


Level: High School (two-part lesson)
Lesson Overview:
During this lesson, students will use a print-making process, collagraphy, where materials are glued to a hard board to create an elevated texture. Inspired by the work of Martin Puryear, students will explore how artists use simple shapes to represent complex ideas and how materials influence artistic choices. Through close-looking and reflection, students will create a personal response using the theme of Liberty.
Download this lesson.


Level: Middle School (and High School)
Lesson Overview:
During this lesson, repetition, pattern and design are explored through the inspiration of Puryear’s featured sculpture installations in the United States Pavilion in the Giardini della Biennale, Venice. Students will invent their own architectural patterns and create interesting compositions while focusing on geometric shapes, symmetry/asymmetry, scale, repetition, and placement using handmade stamps.
Download this lesson.


Level: Elementary School (two-part lesson)
Lesson Overview: During this lesson, students will use a print-making process, collagraphy, where materials are glued to a hard board to create an elevated printing surface. Inspired by the work of Martin Puryear, students will explore how looking at multiple works can provide clues regarding the artist’s intent, and increase understanding of thematic similarities. Students will experiment with composition by combining simple shapes to create a collagraph print.
Download this lesson.


Level: High School
Lesson Overview:
Through close-looking and discussion, students will compare Puryear’s A Column for Sally Hemings and the columns of San Marco and Column of San Teodoro, Piazza San Marco (Venice, Italy). Students will explore artists’ use of symbols in public sculpture to express societies’ shared values. Using wooden architectural and air-dry clay, each student will create a column with a sculptural element to represent a share community ideal. 
Download this lesson.


Level: Middle School
Lesson Overview:
In this lesson, students will review what a public sculpture is and how it relates to the space/environment. Through exploring and developing skills in sculpture, students will create three-dimensional public art sculpture models inspired by artists Martin Puryear and Sean Scully. Working in design teams, students will use premade three-dimensional forms to explore the concepts of balance, positive/negative space, repetition and symmetry to create visually powerful and interesting sculptures that responded to the environments where they are placed.
Download this lesson.


Level: Elementary School
Lesson Overview:
Students will create three-dimensional public art sculpture models inspired by artist Martin Puryear. Students will gain knowledge of how artists produce their work, the function and purpose of their work and how they work collaboratively to realize a large-scale project. Students will create three-dimensional forms using paper and apply concepts of balance and positive/negative space to create volumetric models for a public sculpture.
Download this lesson.