Art Matters Fall 2017

The Princeton University Art Museum has been a part of my summer for five consecutive years. Whether I was entering through the main or the staff entrance, the Museum’s environment provided me with novel experiences. I have been fortunate to have these experiences from three perspectives: as a Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) scholar, as a PUPP art teacher’s assistant (TA), and as a Museum Voices Intern working for the PUPP art class.

PUPP serves as a rigorous academic, cultural enrichment, and tuition-free program that prepares high-achieving, low-income high school students from local districts for admission to and ongoing success within selective colleges and universities. I was a member of the PUPP class of 2015. Before enrolling in PUPP, seeing myself going to a selective college was not a thought in my mind. However, through PUPP I discovered a newfound hope and belief that attaining a college education was possible. Throughout high school, I always valued my education above all else—constantly striving to maintain my grades. Thus, enrolling in PUPP didn’t introduce me to what I already knew about the significance of education; rather, it provided access to resources that I did not otherwise have. Prior to PUPP, I had academic support from teachers who saw that I had the potential to transcend my social circumstances. For all that, PUPP provided me with more than additional support—the program enhanced my understanding of diverse cultures.

Every summer PUPP introduces a cultural theme that encourages participants to engage with an aspect of the world in which they live. PUPP then takes the students out of the classroom on excursions that resonate with that topic. The Art Museum is invariably a part of these excursions, fulfilling PUPP’s goal of providing cultural enrichment. Whether PUPP’s theme for the summer focused on cultures of North America, Nigeria, or Afghanistan, the Museum’s world-class collections met the need for an exploration of the visual arts of those societies. When I was a PUPP scholar, I appreciated the attention paid to me and the other PUPP participants by the Museum staff and the time they took to explore with us, becoming part of our experience in learning about the world.

After graduating from PUPP and after a successful first year in college, I decided to apply to become a PUPP teacher’s assistant. TAs are designated for each of three cohorts of rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I became a TA for the rising sophomore classes. My responsibilities included supervising the scholars, supporting faculty, chaperoning excursions, and mentoring. PUPP scholars are enrolled in various subjects, such as literature, math, ACT, writing, sociology, science, personal development, college admissions, and art. I enthusiastically volunteered to be one of the two TAs who supervise in the art class. The theme that summer focused on the culture of the Dominican Republic. Working as a TA, I realized how fortunate PUPP is to have the Museum as a resource. Maria Evans was the art instructor and she always had wonderful art projects planned for the scholars. Working with Caroline Harris, the Museum’s associate director for education, Ms. Evans created projects that were informed by objects in the Museum’s collections. This demonstrates the importance of the Museum—to educate inside its walls but also to serve as a resource beyond its walls.

Following an enjoyable working experience as a PUPP TA, I decided to apply to the Museum Voices internship program because I wanted to learn about the Museum’s approach to providing programs and learning experiences for those who walk through its doors. As a PUPP scholar and TA, I was fascinated by and grateful to the Museum for providing a platform to educate those who want to be entertained by its collections or those who lack cultural capital and wish to acquire it. Working under Dr. Harris in the education department, I learned firsthand of the work that goes into preparing a tour for the PUPP program. I became aware of the Museum’s focus on developing tools to communicate effectively with visitors of all ages, ensuring that it provides the best experiences. It was a sight to experience the ways the Museum extends its services to help audiences learn about and explore diverse cultures. I witnessed that even when a work is not on view, the Museum will search its storage areas to ensure that a teacher’s or student’s needs are met. Verily, the Museum is a place that leverages its world-class art collection and resources to expose people to cross-cultural and cross-curricular connections.


Nely Montina

Muhlenberg College, Class of 2019