Internships in the Arts

Being behind-the-scenes at an arts organization is an excellent opportunity for students to work directly in the field before leaving school. Beyond the important job of exploring one's own artistic interests, there's more to having an effective and functional practice than only the production of work, as involved and demanding as producing work often is alone. To help provide this kind of first-hand, real-world experience, the SCA offers internships that also double as courses: CA 406 (undergrads) and CA 827 (grads). This means that students are able to gain academic credit towards their degree, while also gaining some practical know-how. It's a great deal.  

Click HERE to find out more about internships in the arts through the SCA. It'll be worth your time.

As part of their coursework for CA 406 and CA 827, students are asked to write short reflections on their internships. Here are three from last summer, by Nicola Rough, Anthony Lee, and Ivan So.

Carol Wallace in her studio, the first artist that I interviewed in Nelson.

Why All Artists Should Interview Other Artists

by Nicola Rough

Interviewing other artists is a great practice in developing the obvious skills; listening, writing and editing. I was surprised to learn some other very valuable skills along the way. These include: 

  • I learned how to manipulate conversations in a way that kept the conversation flowing naturally but got the information that I needed - and what the readers would be looking for. These questions include: how did you start making art? What is your mural about? Where else can we see your work? Amongst others. 
  • Another very valuable (and practical) thing that I learned was to interview artists in a comfortable place where they feel as if it is just a conversation with a friend. And on another level, hide the recorder. In the many interviews I did, as soon as they remember they are being recorded, brain farts happen. 
  • Don’t ask questions that you couldn’t/wouldn’t want to answer yourself. After my second interview I thought it would be valuable and challenging to answer the questions I had been asking other artists myself. It proved to be very difficult and is still in process. I think my answers will truly never be complete, but it has definitely helped me articulate my own work in a more concise way.

Adapting in a rural arts community

While I was in Nelson, there were a few very important things I learned about rural arts communities. Some things I learned right off the bat, and others took some more time. These include:

  • Don’t expect anyone to reply to you promptly, especially not over the weekend. With that, do not ask for things or leave things to the last minute. Most conversations and processes in planning are truly processes – processes that need to be marinated over time with many conversations.
  • Slow down. I arrived in Nelson utterly perplexed at the island-time speed that the people around me worked at. Sydney Black and Genevieve Robertson were rare exceptions to this, and I was glad to have them. But other collaborators just operated at different speed. Instead of trying to hurry someone (usually causing them stress) it has been an ongoing practice of patience to trust that things will get done, and they usually do.
  • See opportunity in everything and everyone. It would be easy to say to be kind, smile, make eye contact and really listen to people. That’s just the half of it. So much of this job for me is meeting people and finding ways to cross-pollinate networks. I talked with local restaurants and market vendors to be included in the Mural Festival and I reached out to Artists to share some of their work in our gallery. It’s really about not being afraid to talk to people and offer what you can.

Film shoots for dummies – How to survive on a crazy film set

by Anthony Lee

It’s an indie short!

This summer I worked on an independent short film made by SFU grads and directed by a SFU professor. The shoot took place on Gambier Island over 5 intense shooting days – it was days and nights, with sweat and tears. This is one of those stories that is worth sharing once you become somewhat experienced. That being said, the shoot was INTENSE!

Tips for being a (somewhat) professional crew

Working in the indie world is different from working in the bigger industry. There is a lot more flexibility, and that’s why it is fun. The most important thing is not to be rude to anyone. Nobody wants to work with a jackass on set. It doesn’t matter if you are not familiar with your craft, you will be fine as long as you are willing to adapt and learn. But being disrespectful on set is a big taboo. Communication is key when it comes to teamwork, and a production is based on an effective collaboration between individuals. Your attitude indicates whether you are prepared to take on your role and duties. If you are adaptable and respectful, the team will respect your attitude and teach you anything you might need to learn.

Coping with intense shoots

Working on a production can be a pain sometimes. There were unexpected situations and our team ended up working long hours. The way I cope with the job is to always be prepared before going on set. Make sure you have enough rest – and don’t bite what you can’t chew. While on set, it is inevitable to feel exhausted. This is when you should concentrate. Time passes real quick when you are focused, and all of your stress and tiredness will be thrown to the back of your head. Feel the energy of the room. If the team is flying, your energy will be affected by them, too.

5 things to be expected shooting on a remote location

  • Be prepared. Bring your tools and gloves. It’s not like there is a Home Depot around the corner.
  • Take care of yourself. Wear proper clothing. Bring rain gear on a rainy shoot and sunscreen on a boiling day. Wearing the wrong thing will bring down your energy dramatically.
  • Bring medication. You never know what will happen during your stay at a remote location. A stomachache or mild allergy will affect your entire day or worse. And bring enough for the team needs.
  • Figure out your accommodation. Resting is essential during a production. Make sure to conduct research on available accommodation. You can bring items accordingly, such as a sleeping bag or tent. Your 1st AD should be able to inform you of the details about your shoot.
  • Communication! Don’t be afraid to ask people for help. When you feel sick or don’t feel comfortable doing something, it is your right to get away from it. Safety measures are not as accessible when shooting on remote locations.

5 surprises on a remote shoot

  • On the first day of shooting, the hard drive malfunctioned. Should have checked before going to the island...
  • Chilly wind woke me multiple times at night. Luckily, Patricia had extra sleeping bags.
  • No electricity after 12? I guess we'll just have to deal with it and enjoy the stars in the sky.
  • I realized the importance of a proper first aid person after trying to help an actor in shock and with splinters in his finger.
  • The team underestimated the amount of time needed on some scenes. It turned out that we had to extend the day to finish the shoot in time.

That’s a wrap!

Though the shoot was extremely difficult, we made some stories in those five days. It was definitely a worthy internship and an unforgettable learning experience. I would absolutely be prepared for the next intense shoot. This experience has given me material for some flashbacks.

Vines Art Festival

by Ivan So

As an Artist in the 20th century, people constantly assume that being an artist means being a Graphic Designer. This summer I had the opportunity to intern at Vines Art Festival as a graphic designer, creating a program guide, poster, postcard, and business cards. Although I am a student graduating with a Bachelors of Fines Arts (BFA), I had an interesting experience, as an Artist, taking on a role as a graphic designer. I want to share my experiences working at Vines and the commonalities and differences that I discovered.


  • Creating works/projects for an audience
  • Creativity
  • Producing drafts/prototypes

Graphic Designer:

  • Creating content strictly for a client
  • Designs are used for commercial use
  • Working at home
  • Working on a computer


  • Creating work that can be conceptual and political
  • Working in a studio
  • Personal
  • Multi-media

Starting this internship, I had many doubts about my capabilities as a graphic designer. Although I had some experience and knowledge using applications like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, working for a client was a new territory. I am used to creating subjective art that does not need to follow any compositional rules. My artistic practice is poetic and abstract while my projects at Vines needed to be legible and straightforward.

My first project was simple: an info-card that was the size of a business card.

The first step in creating this design was researching the objective of the festival. Since Vines is interested in topics such as sustainability, love of nature, and climate justice, I wanted to keep a colour palette of earth tones – greens, blues, and browns. This was definitely a very straightforward approach, but eventually I gained more confidence with my abilities further along my internship.

A more complex design was the poster and final program guide cover (see above).

During the process of creating the poster, I was still learning about Vines and my supervisor, Heather Lamoureux, was still learning about my capabilities as a graphic designer. A major difference in my final project, the program guide, versus my second project, the poster, was the “pop” of colour I used and the manipulation of the artwork. Subtle details like that make a design more intriguing and eye-catching. However, before having the confidence to create a design that is bolder, I needed to show Heather that I was professional and qualified for the job.

To show that you are professional and capable, you should be able to:

  • meet your deadlines
  • provide plenty of time for your client to review yours drafts
  • create edits that are accurate to the client’s suggestion
  • have confidence in the design and familiarize yourself with the company/organization