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Learning by Doing, Thanks to Leyasmeyers

New stipends support English major interns at area arts organizations
June 11, 2018

English major at the Museum of Russian Art

English major at the Museum of Russian Art
An English major gains practical experience at the Museum of Russian Art

"I learned a lot about what it was like to work in a museum," senior Ariana Coon reported of her spring internship at the Museum of Russian Art. "I had had a class prior to my internship where I learned about museum management, but during my internship I had the chance to apply that knowledge."

Last fall, thanks to a generous gift, the Department of English was able to begin offering $500 stipends to English majors who intern at selected Twin Cities arts organizations. Eight prestigious area theater, performing arts groups, and museums agreed to host internships dedicated to University of Minnesota English majors, in large part because the new Archibald and Edith Leyasmeyer Fund helps students embrace these experiential learning opportunities.

Coon assisted the TMORA curator in adding items to the museum's collection and information management system, handling (with nitrile gloves!) and documenting donated Soviet-era New Years ornaments. She also helped install an exhibition of paintings, in the process learning how to measure light in lumens and write wall tags.

Professor Emeritus Archibald Leyasmeyer
The late Archibald Leyasmeyer

The Leyasmeyer internship fund, honoring Professor Emeritus of English Archibald Leyasmeyer, was started by his widow Edith Leyasmeyer, Dean Emeritus of the University’s School of Public Health. Professor Leyasmeyer died in 2016 after an adventurous and accomplished life devoted to literature, the arts, and culture. Winner of the University’s Community Service Award, Professor Leyasmeyer held board leadership positions with numerous Minnesota arts organizations, including the Guthrie Theater, the Weisman Art Museum, the Playwrights’ Center, the Jerome Foundation, the Center for Arts Criticism, and the Minnesota Humanities Commission.

Gifts to support these dedicated arts internships in honor of Professor Leyasmeyer are welcome here. Or mail to University of Minnesota Foundation, P.O. Box 860266, Minneapolis, MN 55486-0266.

"It is so gratifying to know that students have been able to expand their knowledge base and experience in the arts world," notes Edith Leyasmeyer, "in addition to gaining a greater understanding of literature. I am delighted that my small contribution is making a difference."

The skills and knowledge gained are applicable across many avenues, according to students. "I’m very interested in a career in education and social work," says junior Emma Heckel, who interned at Zenon Dance Company. "At my internship, I was able to gain valuable insight into the day-to-day activities of a non-profit organization, oversee various creative projects from conception to completion, and be in a friendly, welcoming environment."

Through these internships, students also meet significant leaders in the Twin Cities arts community, who become part of their networks. "I worked frequently with the head curator and the museum’s art conservator," says sophomore Olivia Riggins, who also interned at TMORA. "I was able to learn about their career paths. They have both given me great advice on what I can do now to prepare for entering the industry after graduation."