$5 million grant to pay interns helps increase diversity at Metropolitan Museum of Art

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NEW YORK (WABC) — In October 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we told you about a large donation aimed at increasing diversity among Metropolitan Museum of Art interns.

A single donor, Adrienne Arsht, gave the Met $5 million to pay for its interns. And since then, applications for Met internships have increased by 200%.

Over 3,000 people applied for 50 places this summer, and it’s no wonder management is calling the Arsht internship program a “super success.”

Internships are crucial to getting started in any competitive field, and traditionally these positions were unpaid – so jobs were often given to the sons and daughters of wealthy people, i.e. children who don’t didn’t have to make any money.

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But now a quiet revolution is underway to make the staff as diverse as the art on the walls and in the galleries.

“Expanding who’s at the table, who’s in the conversation, will help us,” Education Chair Heidi Holder said.

She says the push for greater diversity has to start at the entry level, which is why paying interns is so important.

“It gives the opportunity to people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to intern in the arts,” she said.

Ollantay Avila is a good example.

“I couldn’t have been part of this internship any other way,” she said.

Avila has gained hands-on graphic design experience helping edit the Met’s website, but she still worries.

“Especially as someone who loves the arts, it’s kind of sad to see that there’s not a lot of diversity,” she said. “People who look like me in positions where I want to be.”

It’s to help young people like Avila who convinced Arsht to make clear his gift to the Met of going to pay interns, so that this lack of diversity can be filled.

“It only gets better when you start at the bottom and build a base and these different people move up the organization,” Arsht said.

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Inters said his meeting with Arsht left them excited.

“You could tell she was really invested in what she was doing,” Sade Collier said. “It’s not just someone giving money.”

Arsht’s idea to help grew out of his late father’s experience. He had to give up an important opportunity as a young man due to a need to support himself.

It is therefore not surprising that the program gives him great joy.

“Your presence here makes such a big difference to the Met and how it moves forward, she told Collier.

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