Queen’s Art Conservation partners with National Gallery for diversity initiative

Program to provide placements for students of visible minorities 

Interns to receive $25,000 bursary and a four-month long placement at NGC in Ottawa.
A new internship program is working to provide increased opportunities for students of visible minorities in the department of Queen’s Art History & Art Conservation.
Initiated by Stephen Gritt, director of conservation and technical research for the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), and developed by Patricia Smithen, director of the Master of Art Conservation Program at Queen’s, Queen’s Art Conservation Program will see four students from visible minority groups prepare for their studies through up-close work at the NGC.
Upon acceptance, each intern will receive a $25,000 bursary and a four-month long placement at the NGC in Ottawa during the summer, prior to their start in the Master’s program.
“[Gritt] and I have been looking for ways to increase diversity in the profession,” Smithen said in an interview with The Journal. “We really want our profession to look like Canadians […] and right now, our profession does not look like Canada.”
“It’s common sense. Diversity is a really important thing not just to conservation but to everything […] We are overwhelmingly white, and while we are seeing some of those numbers change in terms of our intake, change is not happening fast enough for me.”
When students apply for the Master of Art Conservation Program at Queen’s, they can self-identify as being from a visible minority group. Students who choose to do so will be screened for potential acceptance into the
 internship program. Applications close on Jan. 15.
“The goals of the program are to find students who are coming into Queens who may not have had an opportunity to experience conservation first-hand,” Smithen said. “We really wanted to give them a bit of a leg-up and make sure that we give them the absolute best chance to succeed in the program.”
Smithen called the internship program a “fantastic” opportunity for students entering the Master’s program. There’s no undergraduate program for art conservation, so the program provides students with needed experience and preparation. 
During their placement, interns will be mentored by art conservators, have the opportunity to look at paintings under microscopes, and embed themselves in the profession. They’ll also spend time at the Canadian Conservation Institute to  further develop their skills.
“They’ll be a fly on a wall and actually be able to track that process, and see what happens when these professionals interact,” Smithen said.
One of the students who entered the Art Conservation Master’s program this year spent her summer at the NGC as a trial intern.
“Her feedback to us is really important in terms of what it meant for her, what helped her, and what should we be doing differently,” Smithen said. “She said that it really has boosted her confidence coming into the program.”
From this feedback, Smithen is “confident” they’ll be able launch the program for the next three interns in September 2022, depending on the state of COVID-19 restrictions. 
Smithen said she hopes this program will encourage more students from diverse backgrounds to apply to the Master’s program. 
“Part of this is also getting the word out. Here we are, we would love to have you, and help be the future of conservation for Canada,” she said.
Smithen  added  that, because the Queen’s Master’s program is the only one of its kind in Canada, it’s really important they “get it right.”
“If we get it right at our stage, then our profession gets it right in the future.”

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