Art Matters Fall 2016

Art has the power and versatility to be a plethora of different things for different people. It can be inspirational, cathartic, and ennobling. For me, it has been life changing. Art has led and continues to lead me on the most unprecedented and fulfilling journey. I would like to think that I found art, but perhaps it found me in my early teenage years. I began to appreciate it through the remnants of the colonial past of my country, Trinidad and Tobago. The historic architecture that dotted my daily commute from home to school suddenly began to stand out to me. I was so inspired by the beauty and craftsmanship of these buildings that I began to think about a degree or career path that could preserve or include them in some way. After an extensive Google search, I could visualize art history and historic preservation as possible options for my future. At the young age of fourteen, I had already mapped the course of my tertiary study, thanks to a few neoclassical structures.

In 2013, art took me thousands of miles away from my home to the University of York in the United Kingdom. While reading a BA History of Art, I was determined to make the most of my adventure abroad. I joined various art societies, most notably the Norman Rea Gallery, a student-run space. As a general committee member, I assisted with the installation and breakdown of exhibitions every fortnight. There I was able to gain practical knowledge of the operations of a small gallery space. During my second year, I was afforded two incredible opportunities. The first was to curate my own exhibition. I opted to do a photography show featuring three artists from Trinidad and Tobago. This perhaps is one of my proudest moments, as art not only led me to curate but also afforded me the chance to portray works from my original home in my new home in York, which had never before showcased pieces from the Caribbean. It was certainly a rewarding experience. The second opportunity was to be appointed director of press and publicity of the gallery. At the time, I was unaware of how crucial this position would be to the next stage of my art journey. During the year, I obtained experience in marketing, social media, and website management and communications.

With a fervent desire to find an internship that year, I applied to several museums and art galleries and, to my absolute surprise and delight, was offered a place at the Princeton University Art Museum for its summer internship program. Thus, my passion and love for art, which had grown tremendously since my teens, prompted me to cross the Atlantic Ocean yet again, landing me at Princeton last summer. I had the opportunity of a lifetime working as the marketing and public relations intern under the creative and bubbly wing of Erin Firestone, manager of marketing and public relations. Each day I walked in to the galleries amazed and humbled to be surrounded by works of art by artists who defined and contributed to the art historical canon. From an African handmade beaded belt to Italian altarpieces to Monet’s Water Lilies and Andy Warhol’s Blue Marilyn, it was truly a privilege to have spent nine weeks amongst a taste of the world’s art.

Moreover, art led me not just to more art but also to greater experience in marketing and promoting it to the world using social media. I relaunched the Museum’s Instagram account, which has grown substantially since then. I also developed a video series that the Museum has made into an annual feature titled “Interns At Work,” which will provide future interns a platform to share their projects and thoughts. Thus, I learned that technology can be employed to ensure art’s sustainability and accessibility to as many people as possible.

Art for me has been metamorphic in the last decade. It has carried me to new countries and allowed me to work with phenomenal people in beautiful places. I am not sure where it will take me, but I certainly anticipate the next curve in the road with excitement and hope.

Svetlana Leu

Princeton University Art Museum Summer Intern 2015
University of York, Class of 2016