Selby Gardens Interns Part of Smithsonsian Initiative

Todays News

Image from Smithsonian.

A relationship with the Smithsonian connected leadership for the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens with interns from across the country this summer. It also allowed the Sarasota institution to be part of a pilot initiative and an effort to celebrate The Highwaymen, a celebrated collective of Black painters in Florida.

“It’s terrific. There are students who may not have been able to come here in person,” said Jennifer Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens. “It was just great to be able to collaborate in a broad way from across the country. It was a mutually beneficial effort. The interns gained experience, and for us, their involvement enriched our programming.”

The interns — Ania Ty of Oregon State University, Miles Mikofsky of the University of Chicago and Samantha Wetherell of the university of Arizona — interned from June 14 to Aug. 6. They were part of a The Smithsonian Affiliate Digital Learning and Engagement Internship, an initiatiave organized in partnership with the Emerson Collective.

To trace Selby’s involvement means looking back two years to when the botanical gardens became an official Smithsonian affiliate, becoming part of a national network of museums sharing educational and cultural resources. “Our affiliation with the Smithsonian was such a good fit for us because they are a research institution and of course have a long history as an arts and culture and a historical preservation entity,” Rominiecki said. In the intervening years, botanical researchers continued working with scientists through the Smithsonian and Selby increasingly served as a cultural venue in the city.

As for the pilot initiative this summer, the interns never came to Sarasota but worked closely with Selby professionals on the project “We Dream a World: African American Landscape Painters of Mid-Century Florida, The Highwaymen.” Ty worked to gather information on Mary Ann Carroll, the lone female painter in The Highwaymen. Mikofsky conductaed comparative work of The Highwaymen painters and heavy influence “Bean” Backus. Wetherell, meanwhile, focused on documenting the role the painting collective had on depicting Florida’s historic, natural landscape before development significantly altered it.

The efforts together contributed to a larger goal of building learning resources about The Highwaymen.

“This internship program is not only a gift for the students who are enrolled in it— it is a gift for all of us,” said Laurene Powell Jobs, founder and president of the Emerson Collective. “By offering students from underestimated communities the chance to draw upon the Smithsonian Institution’s extraordinary collections, this collaboration is fostering a new and better understanding of our shared history while empowering a new generation of change agents.”

The three interns working with the Selby were among 75 students representing just under 60 colleges and universities.

“This pilot is about better understanding our reach and ability to activate youth around the country who would not otherwise have such opportunities,” said Jamie Van Leeuwen, director of youth and community engagement at Emerson Collective. “With the collective challenges we face as a country, it is critical now more than ever that we turn to our young leaders to help us respond to the needs of our communities.”

Image from Smithsonian.

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