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Reflecting Upon My Internship Experience in Not-For-Profit Management

at the London Arts Council

August 24, 2018
Written by: Sean Yauk

            This summer, I had the privilege of working for the London Arts Council (LAC) as a not-for-profit management intern. I was brought on to the team in early May of 2018, and was eagerly awaiting the chance to learn about some of the work that the LAC was doing in to enhance the quality of life and creative vitality in the city of London. Going into the position, I would be expected to work in the areas of arts administration and advocacy, while assisting with the facilitation of art projects in and around the greater London community. Having both a background in music and an interest in arts management and cultural policy, I was keen to bring my unique skill set to the table. Little did I know that I would be embarking upon an amazing rotational program exposing me to different areas in not-for-profit arts management such as event planning, communications, networking, and public art curation. The skills and experiences that I gained through this internship opportunity prove to be valuable in an ever changing cultural and artistic landscape! 

            Going into my 4th-year as a full-time political science student at Huron University College, I have had the chance to explore leadership, citizenship, governance, and cultural policy over the course of the last few years. During my first few weeks with the LAC, I was tasked with facilitating a public art program called London Arts Live that enhances civic spaces with live art. The program — funded through the LAC’s Community Arts Investment Program— works to dispatch professional local artists to different public spaces and events throughout the duration of the year. Surprisingly, the work that I did in the public arts portfolio with London Arts Live connected heavily with my political studies at Huron by putting the study of cultural policy and place-based governance into practice. I was also able to connect my classroom experiences surrounding leadership styles and governance to the dynamic world of municipal politics in London. This work undoubtedly challenged my understanding of the overlap between politics and the arts in an urban setting. 

            The organization is made up of a team of full-time arts workers, who manage many of the LAC’s operations. What struck me the most during my second month of the internship was the LAC’s broad and determined mission to advocate, invest, and run programming in the local arts sector to improve the city. It was in this second month that I was afforded the opportunity to spend time working under every member of the organization who upheld this mission ardently. I learned about running educational programs to inspire and connect young people to the arts community. I studied communication strategies that not-for-profits use to build their brand. I explored the administration of grant funding systems. I also became proficient in organizational leadership and management tactics. The team members quickly became my mentors and friends.  I gained insight into areas that I would not regularly be exposed to, and formed connections with some remarkable individuals. These experiences greatly enhanced my academic career, and equipped me with a new understanding of governance and operations within the arts sector. 

            I’m thankful for the enduring support that I received from the LAC throughout the duration of my internship! My direct supervisor was a positive role model, who taught me much about public art and arts management. From team meetings to one-on-one conversations, the organizations’ team members were always more than willing to answer questions and provide me with guidance and direction. I was also afforded much liberty when embarking upon tasks and projects that were given to me, which really allowed me to learn and grow. The team also supported my research work that I was doing in theatre studies at Huron through the Centre for Undergraduate Research and Learning, and were willing to allow me to venture to Boston in my third month to attend a national theatre conference. Overall, my experience was enhanced by these incredible and passionate individuals. 

            Looking back on my time spent in this position has inspired me to explore career opportunities in communications and management within the arts and entertainment sector. I had known little about the political and social importance of arts practices in cities before this job. I have acquired a set of valuable communicative and planning skills, along with exposure to not-for-profit management. I now see myself taking on a leadership position in very this industry in the next 5 - 10 years, and look forward to exploring this area even further as I return to Huron for  my fourth year of studies. The advice that I would give to other students interested in pursuing a similar internship would be to broaden your horizons and express your willingness to both learn and lead. 

I’d like to thank Huron University College for making this paid internship possible, particularly Alumnus Doug Raymond and LAC for co-funding my internship over the summer. Without this funding, I would have missed out on this unbelievable learning experience.